Make Time for Wellness

A recent article in Forbes has highlighted a recent report from the Global Corporate Challenge (pdf) that indicates the time stresses employees have when working with corporate wellness programs.

86% say they don’t have the time for wellness initiatives. Yet, many full-time employees work 40+ hours per week. Something doesn’t quite add up here.

What’s the inconsistency here? Easy. A lot of time is spent on “make-work”, doing nothing at the desk, surfing the Web, gabbing with coworkers, all under the guise of appearing to be “hard at work” so that they seem productive. In other words, it’s presenteeism all over again.

This is where a properly implemented wellness program intersects with a change in management to create a healthier, happier workplace.

A company needs to make the time for employees to engage in activity. The stresses placed on the body due to physical inactivity correlate strongly with poor health, leading to higher health-related expenditures down the line. Considering the predominance of knowledge-based employees in office environments, this means

  • getting people away from sitting at desks, hunched over their computers,
  • moving away from the “old” culture of “more hours at work = more productivity”, and
  • changing management to embrace the idea of a workplace measured by completion of objectives and projects, not hours spent at the desk.

The easiest part is the first point. Allowing people to have flexible workstations isn’t too hard. Whether it be through encouraging self-made solutions (making a computer stand at home, or using boxes/cabinets/shelves to put screens at head level) or ordering flexible workstations (or even treadmill desks), the fix is pretty easy.

The trickier parts of the equation come in the second two points. Cultures tend to operate on inertia: once they’re entrenched, they tend to stick around for a looooong time unless something significant happens.

It would be difficult for some to accept that many meetings will from now on can be conducted by taking a walk around the block. It would be difficult for some to accept that employees will congregate once an hour to have a couple minutes of group exercise and stretching. It would be difficult for some to accept that performance will be measured by accomplishments and projects completed (i.e. actual value to the company), not by hours spent in the office (i.e. perceived value to the company).

However, with a knowledge-based workplace focused on peak productivity and employee health, each of these changes is something that makes time for wellness and doesn’t detract from the company’s overall performance. In fact, you’ll find in time that it increases productivity and morale.

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