New Approaches Hope To Fix “Unwell” Workplaces

It’s the time of year when colds and flu often mean staying home from work. But it’s not as simple as that: a general lack of wellness has become a huge concern in the workplace.

Released by the Global Wellness Institute, "The Future of Wellness at Work" assesses the “rising epidemic of an unwell workforce,” how it impacts our country, what the future health of our workforce will look like, and how wellness initiatives will integrate into the workplace—and possibly save the day.

future_wellness_at_work.pngSickness in the workplace costs the U.S. $2.2 trillion per year. Based on a compilation of research, costs breakdown as follows: $250 billion on work-related injuries and illnesses, $300 billion on work-related stress, $550 billion on disengagement at work, and $1.1 trillion on chronic disease. The report also paints a pretty grim picture of the current state of wellness in the workplace globally, listing stats related to economic insecurity (77% of people work in part-time, temporary, vulnerable or unpaid jobs) general health (76% of people are struggling or suffering in their physical wellbeing) and stress (38% of people suffer from excessive pressure on the job), among other factors.

Yet there’s hope. An exploration of successful workplace wellness programs yielded some best practices that companies anywhere can use.

Susie Ellis, GWI Chairman and CEO summarizes the findings:

The findings surprised us: we saw significant, diverse and positive implications when a company is perceived to “care” about an employee’s personal wellness, and extremely negative outcomes when it was perceived as a “non-caring” company. And we found that caring companies tackle not just ‘tangibles’ like healthy food and workspaces, they address emotional, relational, organizational, intellectual and financial ‘wellness’ at work (whether it’s giving workers more work flexibility or encouraging socializing and friendships)."

The authors predict that workplace wellness will take a big shift in the next five years as more businesses continue to realize that a culture insistent on parking yourself at a desk for days, often devoid of real human connection, creates a gigantic deficit in productivity and profits.

Very recent research out of the Mayo Clinic further corroborates this evidence. Researchers assessed employees reactions to involvement in a workplace-based wellness champions program, a community oriented and holistic program based on positive support from peers. They were much more likely to label their workplace as supportive of a healthy lifestyle than those who are not.  Read a synopsis of the study here. Similarly, a recent article in the New York Times, highlights the use of app that help improve nutrition in the workplace. In other words, extending the ethos of wellness in the workplace to go beyond free gym memberships or bonuses for smoking cessation is actively being pursued.

While workplace wellness programs alone won’t heal our nation, they can help connect our minds, bodies and spirits to our work and our lives.  

VIDEO: Yoga Means Business 30-Minute Method class at digital ad agency Good Apple via Yoga Means Business filmed by Crain’s NY Business via Yoga Means Business

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Read all stories by Damon Cory-Watson


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