Over the past 10 years, there has been an increasing focus on workplace wellness. Programs popped up all over the world that were designed to help workers stop smoking, lose weight, and exercise in some fashion. These were great steps, but many of them failed to become part of the ongoing culture.

It is unreasonable to think that every organization can establish a culture like Nike’s culture. Their entire facility design and structure supports and provides the opportunity for consistent, healthy behavior. It is also reinforced by the innovations they bring to the marketplace. However, opportunities exist for any company to transform their organization into a culture of health and wellness.

First and foremost, believe the numbers, because they don’t lie. There is a cost and if you don’t get a handle on it, it will choke out your profit margins. What do we know? In 2011, The Gallup Healthways Wellbeing Index estimated that the cost of lost productivity from unhealthy employees exceeded 150 billion dollars. When factoring in treatment, wage replacement, and insurance cost, the cost now exceeds $500 billion annually, according the Integrated Benefits Institute.

Your teams include individuals with different attitudes, beliefs, experiences, perspectives, abilities, qualities, and talents. These are acquired with the employees when you hire each one of them. Your culture is the environment that nurtures their behaviors. However, company culture is something that you have the ability to establish and change, which can impact the psychology and behavior of employees. What typically motivates companies to change culture is performance, productivity, and profit. When management understands the improvement to the bottom-line, they are more prone to act.

Get Strategic and Change Your Culture

Although changing the culture is not easy, it is something that can be under the control of the management. Change the culture must be a part of your overall strategy. To achieve a culture of wellness, the first step requires defining what specific goals you want to accomplish. You will need to define and describe what your healthy culture will be like. How will changing to a culture of wellness affect productivity, performance, and cost? You should include in your cost model the financial impact of medical care, disability, illness, absenteeism, treatment, workers’ compensation, health claims, health insurance cost, and turnover rate.

Another cost to consider is presenteeism, which can be linked to higher stress. Presenteeism is the time employees are at work, but not into their work. They may lack focus because they aren’t feeling up to par and/or because they are stressed. Increased stress can be caused by a contaminated culture and by personal issues related to health. If the stress is sustained, it can lead to more accidents. Some costs are fairly easy to calculate, but when it comes to cost related to insurance, you will need to capture your current cost and review past trends of increases from the previous 3-5 years. You can at least expect the same relative increases over the next 3-5 years. Many leaders just accept this as the status quo, but others believe this is something they can begin to control and work to get ahead these costs.

This leads to the next step, which is engagement. Many organizations recognize they have an issue, but their approach is to implement a wellness program as the fix. Wellness program in itself will not fix the issue because engagement is critical to the process. To engage your employees into the healthy culture, you have to get employees involved in the process and share the impact of an unhealthy culture and its personal/economic impact on the organization. Bring to light the best practices of organizations that have transformed their culture to a culture of wellness. Your employees must be a part of the solution, which requires constant education. Seek out unique wellness programs with proven track records, which focus on developing a culture of health as part of your solution. Most importantly, establish specific goals and measure all areas of impact.

Engage 2016!

Robert Van Arlen

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