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Integrating Wellness into the Workplace

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Integrating Wellness into the WorkplaceTotal wellness recognizes that all thoughts, words, and actions affect one’s overall health and well-being.  Wellness is an integration of the mind, body, and spirit, permeating all areas of a person’s life—including work.  This idea is further supported by Sorrentino’s definition of wellness: the achievement of the best health possible in the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of one’s life.  Many theorists describe wellness as a holistic and comprehensive concept that involves interdependent balance of five dimensions: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social health.  When an organization integrates and promotes these five dimensions, they increase the potential to achieve a high level of organizational wellness. These strategies promote the connection between personal and professional health and well-being through collaborative programs and initiatives within the organization.  So how does an organization get there?  A good starting point is for wellness to be incorporated into organizational and performance strategy.  This increases the likelihood that wellness will directly affect organizational culture and community and will also allow for integration of the five dimensions.

Organizations need to understand what wellness means to employees.  Doing so will allow the organization to specifically target its wellness strategy and programs which could add value and meaning to the organizational culture.  An example might be a company analyzing its employee demographics and workplace culture and using the data as a basis for creating programs and services that incorporate the mind, body, spirit, and environment.  In contrast to earlier wellness approaches, a flourishing program is comprehensive, ongoing, multi-faceted, and supported by management.

In addition, wellness initiatives should be inclusive and encourage both individual and group participation on a variety of levels.  Collaboration around wellness strategies need to happen at all levels within the organization, from the executive to the employee. To be successful, programs need to be driven by employees who are educated and engaged and later supported by executive and senior management.
Organizational wellness strategies will inevitably affect employee development. Despite this, many organizations fail to integrate wellness into employee performance reviews or professional development. While employees are typically successful in creating specific and measurable goals combining their job description and organizational strategy, performance reviews often omit organizational culture and personal growth and development.

As the average Canadian spends 36.2 hours at work each week, the workplace is an excellent starting point for wellness initiatives that could benefit both the individual and the bottom line. This brings forth the question, “What about goals that allow employees to make small life changes within the workplace to aid with personal wellness?” Instead of employees attending professional development seminars which may not provide value, perhaps organizations should support personal changes resulting in happier, healthier employees and contributing to a stronger organizational culture. For example, one employee might decide to leave work on time at least three days a week. Another may try to not respond to emails on weekends. Perhaps a member of the executive team has a goal to take one Friday off per month to spend with their children while not being available on email. By doing so, these employees are setting precedence and making a strong impact on the company’s overall organizational culture.

Individual wellness goals tied to performance plans can, and should, directly relate to an organizational wellness strategy.  In doing so, a company could aim to reduce the number of stress-related health claims per year. Perhaps an employee plans to engage in physical activity during lunch breaks twice a week to improve their work-life balance. While the company can accommodate the employee without much effort or cost, the benefit to the organization can be substantial. Organizational wellness strategies don’t have to be complicated, lengthy, or grandiose. Wellness can be easily incorporated into performance plans to enhance employee development and positively influence organizational culture.
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