How to support your teams’ wellness and boost your bottom line

How to support your teams’ wellness and boost your bottom line

Most managers are already working to support the well-being of their employees. Many, however, comment that although they care about and want to support the health and wellness of their employees, and want to play a positive role in supporting a wellness culture in the workplace, they aren’t quite sure how to achieve this without disruption to the essential daily operations of the business and without detracting from the financial goals and objectives of the business.

More than four in five people worldwide are interested in improving their own wellness, and workplace wellness is a significant part of the overall wellness picture. Workplace stress costs the Australian economy $15 billion per annum and sickness and absenteeism costs organisations an estimated $3,230 per employee each year. Considering the above statistics and the financial losses associated with not providing some kind of wellness-oriented program, workplace wellness initiatives are an essential part of any successful and sustainable business plan.

Changing work and life styles

You may witness team members attempting to make positive changes to their lives throughout the year, like quitting smoking, exercising more, eating better, losing weight, managing stress, maintaining closer relationships and managing consumption of alcohol and other abusive substances.

Unfortunately, most lifestyle attempts do not result in long-term behavioural change. Most of us have tried to make the same behaviour change many times without success. How many smokers do you know that have tried to quit multiple times? Your inactive employees will most likely have exercise outfits and equipment at home gathering dust. Most people laugh off their failed health resolutions but the mental and physical health consequences are serious. Failure adds to our stress and undermines our sense of empowerment. As a result, many managers and leaders are hesitant to promote wellness because they are wary of setting people up to fail.

The current approach to promoting wellness emphasises initial motivation, with some information on health and wellbeing, being primarily physical activity and mental health focused. A typical program has a personal health survey, counselling, a website or newsletter filled with health information and possibly some massage therapists or yoga instructors visiting the workplace. Some have health fairs and even prizes and although they may have a ‘feel good’ component to them, this approach fits with a culture preoccupied with self-determination. These initiatives rarely address the underlying conditions that lead people towards the unhealthy practices in the first place. The physical and social environments that work against wellness goals are usually ignored.

The Bottom Line

Your organisation’s wellness goals can only be effective when they are linked to a measurement that all managers and leaders are familiar with. Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is an accounting framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. This differs from traditional reporting frameworks as it includes ecological (or environmental) and human. The TBL dimensions are also commonly referred to as the three Ps: people, planet and profits.

Well before Elkington introduced the sustainability concept as “triple bottom line,” environmentalists wrestled with measures of, and frameworks for, sustainability. Academic disciplines organized around sustainability have multiplied over the last 30 years. People inside and outside academia who have studied and practiced sustainability agree generally with Andrew Savitz’s definition for TBL. The TBL “captures the essence of sustainability by measuring the impact of an organization’s activities on the world … including both its profitability and shareholder values and its social, human and environmental capital”.

Quality Management Measurement

Most workplace wellness programs would not pass quality management evaluations for sustainable results. It is rare that the employees are able to maintain the lifestyle changes that they identified they wanted to change prior to starting the program. Such a poor result leads to uninspiring participation rates or a lack of commitment of resources. Most wellness activities are done on menial budgets, typically far smaller than other human resource investments.

A study of senior and middle managers in 24 companies found that most adults will change a health behaviour if they are supported to do so by people they spend time with, and that changes are more likely when supportive policies are in place.

Studies show that effective workplace wellness programs produce results that can directly boost profitability, including 43% increase in productivity and 28% reduction in employee-related expenses.


The keys for wellness leadership

The key to success is to establish strong values and culture for healthy lifestyle practices and for successful lifestyle improvement and define measurements that fit your organisation and your people. Cultures of vitality are not just for cutting-edge organisations but can be achieved in any organisation when managers and executives reframe the way they think about health and wellness.

As a leader, you have the power to leverage your influence and increase the likelihood that your team members will successfully achieve their wellness lifestyle goals.

Leading wellness is not about telling others how to think or behave. To the contrary, wellness leadership is supporting the members in your workplace in order that they can actively implement healthier lifestyle choices.

Here are a number of ways that you can create a workplace environment that supports your people in their quest for health and wellness without negatively impacting on you or your organisation’s KPI’s (key performance indicators):

  1. Share the wellness vision – share why wellness is important and how people can get personally involved and what the organisation is doing to make it easier for people to achieve greater wellness;
  2. Be a positive role model yourself by supporting the wellness program – you don’t need to embody a perfectly healthy lifestyle in each and every area to be a wellness role model for others. Everybody can find strengths in their lifestyle that can support the wellness of others. It may be positive practices in any of the principles of wellness, like being purposeful or having clear personal values and aligning them with the organisation’s mission, resilience or mindfulness to deal effectively with challenging situations that occur in the workplace;
  3. Cultivate a wellness culture by establishing goals that support behaviours that will become the new ‘way that we do things around here’. Remove barriers to success through sustainable workplace policies and practices;
  4. Empower a workplace ‘champion’ to lead the wellness initiatives;
  5. Commit and monitor progress – what gets measured gets energy. Having measurable targets and ongoing attention demonstrates to the team that the wellness efforts are being taken seriously. Keeping track of and offering constructive feedback makes it possible to fine-tune your wellness efforts;
  6. Celebrate success – being mindful and selecting meaningful and appropriate ways to honour the efforts made by your team shows that you authentically care.

We all want to be, and deserve to be, genuinely cared for, in our home and in our workplace.

For more information on how to achieve greater wellness in your workplace read ASWA’s 6-step FREE WORKPLACE WELLNESS GUIDE


Do you have an example of leadership commitment to wellness? We’d love to hear it – please share!

Angela Derks, ND is the Founder and CEO of the Australasian Sustainable Wellness Academy (ASWA) - the award winning accredited leader of wellness training and consulting services for organisations. Her life’s work is helping people achieve optimal health, wellbeing and business success through skills-based learning and healthy leadership strategies. She is the lead developer of the nationally recognised 10299NAT Diploma of Wellness Leadership qualification, delivering relevant skills to effectively integrate evidence-based wellness and management practices into organisations. The ASWA Wellness Solutions Team delivers an integrative approach for individuals, organisations and communities.

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