Tips for Better Employee Health & Wellness
One of the key lessons for leaders that we took away from last year’s Great Place to Work® Conference was that wellness programs are not the lever that drives employees’ health in the workplace. Instead, improving the overall work environment is a far more effective way to keep employees healthy.
In his keynote address, Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer of Stanford University noted, “Companies that build great workplaces also improve human physical and mental health and lifespan.” He estimates that unhealthy work environments cost society a staggering $130 billion and 125,000 deaths each year.
What can employers do to keep workers healthy? According to Pfeffer’s research, the top workplace factors that directly impact the health of employees are:
- Job design, including control over work
- Overtime and number of hours worked
- Providing social support
- Conflict between work and family commitments
- Perceived fairness and justice at work
- Layoffs and economic insecurity
- Offering health insurance
When these factors aren’t managed favorably, employees are far more likely to experience a slew of mental and physical health problems including unhealthy weight gain, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and even death. The result for organizations—other than a workplace brimming with stressed-out and sickly people—includes costlier insurance premiums, increased absenteeism, lower worker productivity, and more.
For organizations that are truly concerned with employee health, before working on separate wellness initiatives, first take stock of the broader work environment to ensure it is one that promotes employee health. Focusing on these factors will go a long way toward making your workplace an inherently healthy one.