The Value of Employee Wellness


It might be as simple as a walking club.

One of the companies BusinessWest spoke with this month about workplace wellness initiatives (see story HERE) related the fact that several employees get together every day to walk around the block, and that its new facility set to open this fall will be even more amenable to walking, with more natural surroundings and trails nearby.

The idea is, quite simply, to get people moving, away from the typical office worker’s pose, hunched over a desk, staring at a screen, often not even leaving the cubicle for lunch. When people move around and engage in some light exercise during the day, they tend to be fitter, feel better, and become more productive and even happier employees. Allowing them time to take a walk is an investment that pays off for the company in the long term.

And it’s only one way businesses are promoting what’s been called a ‘healthy culture’ at work. There are lunch-and-learn seminars on health and wellness topics. Free or discounted gym memberships, or even exercise facilities in the workplace. Free, healthy snacks in the community kitchen. No-smoking policies. Adjustable desks that allow workers to perform their computer tasks standing up.

Some of these initiatives cost money. But many cost almost nothing, and even the ones with a price tag promise to lower costs exponentially down the road.

The reason touches on a concept called presenteeism, the state of showing up for work, but not performing at full capacity — a state that can be triggered by many things: boredom, apathy, trouble at home, but also not feeling well. According to a Global Corporate Challenge survey on presenteeism, while employees tend to be absent from work for sickness four days a year, they confessed to being unproductive on the job an average of 57 days annually — which, from a bottom-line perspective, costs businesses 10 times what absenteeism costs.

That, in black and white — and red ink — is the financial argument for creating a culture of wellness at work and committing to it for the long term. After all, healthy, happy employees who feel like their employer’s care about their well-being are a powerful force in the workforce, and their satisfaction can be infectious — in the best sense of that term.

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