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Workplace Wellness Programs and Employee Productivity

Recent market data show that corporate wellness programs in the U.S. are an $8 billion industry. With a projected growth rate of 7.8 percent through 2021, the industry doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Rising number of competitors, increasing technological advancements, and spiraling healthcare costs are driving companies to actively invest in the well-being of their employees. Some of the top health concerns that employers wish to address include work-related stress, depression, on-site injuries and non-communicable diseases.

Statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that:

  • Every year, employee absenteeism amounts to $225.8 billion in costs.
  • The top four ailments among employees are high blood pressure, chest pain, diabetes and heart attack.
  • 38 percent of the U.S. working population has no paid sick leave.
  • Employees working while they are sick account for two-thirds of all corporate health costs.

The United States has one of the longest working hours in the developed world. In fact, Americans work 200 additional hours every year. With rising market pressure and corporate costs, companies are introducing innovative workplace wellness programs for their employees. Each program has its own rewards and addresses core employee issues.

1. Harnessing Technology for Wellness Programs

UnitedHealthcare recently conducted a study “Wellness Checkup” which interviewed 609 full-time employees across the United States. 60 percent of respondents who had access to a workplace wellness program stated that the corporate initiatives had a positive impact on their health. The study also found that 25 percent of the employees owned a fitness tracker. By tapping into this trend, many companies are syncing wearables with employee health targets.

Example: Indiana University Health introduced the Fitbit Challenge to its employees. At the conclusion of the three-month step challenge, 40 percent of the 4,000 participants experienced a decrease in their Body Mass Index (BMI), while 67 percent reported greater stress management and healthier eating habits.

2. Promoting Healthy Eating Habits

In the U.S., the average full-time employee eats one in four meals during work hours. Owing to the fast-paced nature of corporate culture, the majority of workers will consume foods that are high in saturated fats, refined sugar, and sodium. On the contrary, food prepared at home tends to be packed with nutrition. But as Americans cook less and eat out more, the country’s obesity epidemic continues to balloon. Thus, companies that invest in actively promoting healthy eating habits experience greater employee output and less absenteeism.

Example: The mega-feeder Sodexo has joined the Meatless Monday campaign in an effort to promote vegetarian dietary options throughout its corporate, healthcare and college centers across the United States. That amounts to 10 million people every day. By committing to plant-rich meals at the start of the work week, Sodexo is providing its employees with diverse and nutritious plant proteins like quinoa, lentil, and tofu.

3. Smoking Cessation Programs

It is common knowledge that workers who smoke create more costs for their employers. According to a 2013 study by Ohio State University, employees who smoked cost their companies $5,800 on an average every year. Costs can aggregate from factors like smoke breaks, excessive absenteeism and nicotine addiction. As a result, many companies have started to offer smoking cessation programs, both on moral and financial grounds.

Example: The Union Pacific Railroad provides a smoking cessation program for its employees, that includes lifestyle coaching, moral support and pharmacological assistance. Between the 1990s to 2007, the number of workers who smoked dropped from 40 percent to a mere 17 percent.

Workplace wellness programs have repeatedly demonstrated their positive impact on employee productivity and corporate healthcare costs. Investing in them is a smart move in terms of long-term benefits. As summarized by Soeren Mattke, lead author of the 2013 Rand Report, one of the most comprehensive analyses of wellness programs,

“We find that workplace wellness programs can help contain the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases, the main driver of premature morbidity and mortality as well as health care cost in the United States.”

Three Ways You Can Add Green Design to Boost Employee Productivity and Happiness

Whether you manage an office of five people or 500 people, you’ve probably faced the task of refining your office design to improve employee productivity. Most people focus on things like creating open workspaces for better collaboration or adding ergonomic chairs and standing desks for added employee comfort. While these are valuable steps, don’t lose sight of one easy change that can reap big benefits: introducing more green design into your office.

Research shows that incorporating plants in the workplace can improve productivity, increase creativity, and sharpen employee focus. The effects can even extend to employee health. Being around plants or viewing nature scenes can elevate your employees’ mood and wellbeing. It also lowers their heart rate and blood pressure. With all of the benefits plants have to offer, what are you waiting for? Here are three easy ways to get started.

Place Statement Pieces In Central Areas

Start your design process by placing living art pieces in central areas of your office. A vibrant centerpiece of colorful flowers and greenery displayed in the lobby will draw the eyes of clients, visitors and employees every time they pass by it. Thriving plant arrangements placed in conference rooms or waiting rooms will provide a positive visual impact on both clients and employees. And common areas near hallways and elevators are ideal locations for tall plants that take up very little floor space but provide a respite for the eyes and mind. By placing statement pieces in central areas, you can positively impact the most people at once.

Incorporate Unique Plants Into Employee Workspaces

Now that you’ve addressed the central areas of your office, it’s time to focus on employee spaces such as cubicles, workrooms, kitchen areas and bathrooms. These are the spaces your employees use every day, and you can add plants to make an immediate impact.

Start with a series of calming centerpieces such as Japanese-themed zen gardens or bonsai tree arrangements in the kitchen and dining areas. Then energize the office by incorporating flowering plants in the employee workrooms or within each cubicle area. In the bathrooms, add some subtle, low-profile plants on the countertops that provide a pleasant visual appeal without getting in the way. Keep lines of sight in mind as you position these plants since every employee should have a chance to see some green when they look around or get up and walk around.

Create A Green Space The Entire Company Can Enjoy 

Many companies offer perks such as gym facilities, foosball and ping pong tables, or onsite food prep for their staff. Why not offer your own company perk in the form of an indoor garden? These relaxing spaces are easy to set up. They can be as small or as large as your available space will allow.

Try to pick an area with high visibility so that employees can benefit from looking at the garden. Indoor trees, flowering shrubs, and water or rock features can be combined to form an idyllic space. This can lower stress levels and promote happiness and creativity. For example, tech startup GIPHY recently created an indoor garden of hanging plants in their New York headquarters. The garden is just one of several design elements that showcase the company’s colorful, fun and friendly attitude.

We hope these ideas have got you thinking about how you can add green design elements to your office. Employee productivity is essential to your company’s success. Why not take advantage of every design element you can to increase that productivity? With a little more greenery in the workplace, you could soon see some very happy, productive employees.