Wellness No More: The Continuing Evolution of Employee Well-Being

Employee Well-Being

Organizations are concerned about their employees. How concerned? A recent survey done by Fidelity and the National Business Group on Health (NBGW) says today's companies spend roughly $700 on wellness-based programs per employee.

But increasingly, it's not just about physical wellness.

This fact was illustrated In September at the forum on Creating a Culture of Heath & Well Being. The 6th annual event took place in Chicago to discuss trends in employer support. And overwhelmingly it showed that companies are not merely concerned with just physical health anymore; many are expanding their points of focus to look at well-being in a holistic way.

Employee Well-Being: A Continuing Evolution

This marks a continuing - and important - evolution. And it's not small upstarts doing the talking - these are big, successful organizations that recognize new ways to meaningfully support their people, and that have seen substantial success in doing so.

Some of the areas touched on at the conference:

Social Well-Being

Robin Bouvier, the VP of health and benefits innovation group at Aon Hewitt, talked about her company's experiences looking at very specific areas of employees including emotional, financial, physical, and even social health. The latter is a particularly bold move. In fact, the company actively supports and encourages employees in this area through, as Robin described it, "connectedness; the quality of our relationships with others."

Core Values

Tasty Catering CEO Tom Walter, who talked about building psychologically healthy workplaces, says every meeting at his company starts by repeating the company's core values. Why? These statements are more than just words on a page; they influence every aspect of how a company does business; they instruct the culture of a company and are the backbone of the organization's well-being. They also communicate a lot about a company to the outside world. In fact, Tasty Catering puts theirs - including "a competitive and strong determination to be the best" and "an enduring culture of individual discipline" - for all to see on the company's "about us" page.

A Shift from Healthcare Costs

Everyone's concerned about the cost of healthcare. But as we've talked about on these pages, reducing those costs purely through health initiatives - no more cupcakes in the employee cafeteria! - is a little too literal minded. Sessions like "Scratch Your Corporate Wellness Program and Transform to a Well-Being Model for Long-Term Value" made it clear that your real savings are going to come from a healthy work environment that supports people to perform their best.

A Focus on Employees and the Places They Work

That last part is really the crux - that we want to move beyond just wellness to where we're taking a more holistic approach, one that considers both the employees and the environments they're working in.

More and more companies are doing that. And the trend is heartening. Because what we know at Horizons Workforce Consulting is that when an organization invests in positive workplaces and in employee well-being (and not just wellness), HR is able to leverage benefits and policies - including dependent care supports, paid time off, training and development - that effectively support employees, and as a result, the organization. The potential to collect data and track outcomes from these policies and programs further enables organizations to have more of an impact into the priorities of employees, and so into what strategies will be effective.

We believe it's all about well-being, and that health and wellness are just parts - albeit important parts - of a "whole" strategy that really works. At the end, they hit it out of the park.

Positive workplaces are recognized for their impact on employees, and one of the elements that define Dream Companies. Read more about the new Horizons Workforce Consulting study about Dream Companies and what the designation means for both employees and financial success. 

Written by: Andrea Wicks Bowles

About the Author

Andrea Wicks Bowles at Bright Horizons

As Senior Consultant, Director Global Initiatives, Horizons Workforce Consulting, Andrea works with Bright Horizons clients to enhance the effectiveness of their employees and strengthen their position as an employer of choice. Her knowledge of global child care policies, organizational effectiveness, and work/life industry trends combined with analytical skills is used to help clients uncover their unique issues and challenges. Andrea, a frequent speaker at work/life conferences, is a key contributor to Bright Horizons' research investigations.