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What Does Wellness Look Like at Work?

Thanks to smartphones, we’re often working beyond our actual time in the office. The standard 9-5 work day is experiencing an overhaul. Whether it’s taking a few minutes to answer a coworker’s question over text or sending a time-sensitive email, the lines between work and the rest of our lives are often blurred. And as we come to rely more and more on technology to communicate, it’s unlikely that this behavior will ever change--though New York City is trying.

Instead, we can choose to sync our work and non-work time by prioritizing wellness in a multi-faceted approach that recognizes employees’ lives outside work. While “wellness” appears to be the new buzzword in corporate settings (the “eating clean” of the food industry), it isn’t something to scoff at! The word itself might be a fad, but the concepts behind it are here to stay. Younger generations view these wellness-related benefits as a workplace standard, often placing more importance on the culture than the pay.

What falls under the umbrella of “wellness” can be broad, with the limits seemingly nonexistent. Corporate decisions made in an effort to promote wellness vary from the more common corporate gym membership, to hiring a chief horticulturist to create an “oasis of nature” through jungle-like terrariums.

The National Wellness Institute has created three questions to evaluate corporate wellness programs:

1. Does this help employees achieve their full potential?

2. Does this recognize and address the whole person (a multidimensional approach)?

3. Does this affirm and mobilize people's positive qualities and strengths?

The goal isn’t to obsess over having the most unique benefits program or the workplace environment that draws the most attention, but to have a culture that values employees’ well-being. The defining component of wellness is focusing on the strength and potential of the person as a whole, rather than as an employee with a set of fixed responsibilities.

Wellness must recognize different components of health. Staying active and eating well usually are the first efforts to come to mind, and offering gym partnerships and healthy snacks in the vending machine are important. Attending to mental health, as part of our overall health, is often overlooked. Companies are starting to recognize the importance of mental health days and reducing the stigma of mental illness.

Changing the office space is a more demanding commitment, but can make a difference in employee’s enthusiasm in coming to work. Some current trends include taking advantage of natural light and making the space more visually appealing or comfortable.

Part of wellness is also recognizing that employees’ lives don’t, or at least shouldn’t solely revolve around career. This might mean encouraging people to digitally disconnect from work-related messages after they leave the office, or to have a flexible work/vacation schedule. Some companies, including Netflix, GE, and Glassdoor even go so far as to give unlimited vacation--though do establish norms so that employees don’t wind up taking too little vacation!

By providing employees multi-dimensional wellness resources, beyond conventional work benefits, we can be proactive about recognizing that work sometimes spills over into personal life. And that employees--as people who have family priorities, personal extracurricular activities and Netflix series to binge-watch--often benefit, and give back more, from a wellness-inspired workplace culture, than being expected to be virtually on-call 24/7.

#wellness #employeewellness #wearables