Wellness isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days where all you had to do for a successful wellness plan was get your company’s workforce walking or eating a little healthier. Now, programming focuses on the entirety of an employee’s wellbeing, targeting their mind and spirit in equal measure with a physical component.
In this environment, wellness has come to mean many different things to many different people. As an institution that hosts a Master’s Degree in Wellness and Health Promotion Management, we have to work diligently to keep up with trends and overarching changes to the status quo, and if you want to enter the industry, so do you.
The following acts as an exploration of what wellness degrees look like in the modern era. While these insights are by no means exhaustive and will change as the years progress, they offer the kind of intel that will prove valuable to anyone interested in an education dedicated to health at the corporate level.
One of the biggest dangers to the workplace isn’t the unhealthy snacks in the vending machines: it’s those things that lead a person to seek out the snack in the first place.
The average American is stressed out beyond belief, and many corporations aren’t helping matters. Employees are tied to mobile devices that encourage them to check up on email and conduct work outside of the workplace. This in turn leads employees to get less sleep, which in turn causes them to be tired at work and reach for the junk food that impairs health and leads to higher stress.
You can see how this has become a vicious cycle. Another vicious cycle? Presenteeism. Out of a sense of obligation or fear, workers have a tendency to want to “tough out” sick days, going in to work and being less productive, in turn getting everyone else sick, leading to an exponential effect of sick days and lost productivity that could have been avoided entirely.
No more. A modern wellness degree teaches the student to get a grasp of the real factors that contribute to stress in today’s environment. By targeting the underlying causes of stress and achieving better work/life balance, your employees become more willing to buy in to your other plans. Which leads directly into…
Engagement at Every Level
The promotional aspect of your job as a corporate wellness educator can’t go unsaid. There’s a reason we call our own degree “Wellness and Health Promotion Management.”
A product is only as good as the person or company selling it. Apple hasn’t gotten to where it is by having the absolute best computers. ‘Best’ is a subjective term. What’s not subjective is how successful they’ve been in marketing their line of products. They’ve become a cool company. Apple as a brand means something to people, and that didn’t occur by happenstance. Their products succeed because their marketing succeeds.
So it goes with your wellness efforts. A worthwhile degree will show you that you can’t be clinical in your approach to marketing to employees. It will teach you the ins and outs of the profession so that you can get buy-in on your wellness plans.
Reminding people to eat their carrots and do push-ups at their desk? Maybe don’t send an email with a subject line that reads ‘Carrots and Push-Ups.’ Instead, your subject line could read “Game of Thrones Most Shocking Twist Yet!!!” Then, the body of the email will proceed to talk about how Jon Snow was brought back to life because of his strict regimen of carrots and push-ups.
Find out what the people under your umbrella respond to and meet them where they live. That may mean venturing into the world of Instagram or Snapchat if you have a younger demographic or speaking in a voice that seems unfamiliar to you. It’s worth it when you get engagement within your organization.
You also need to be able to incentivize things for your employees. If an individual doesn’t have a reason to accept your proposals, they won’t do what you ask of them.
Sometimes, this could mean little things like gift cards or catered lunches. Other times, it could be deeper issues that need immediate attention, like a reevaluation of your company’s policies or benefits structure.
Employees need to feel like they’re valued, and a wellness degree worth its salt addresses how to shift corporate culture in a healthy way. This speaks to the spirit portion of your wellness effort. When an employee is happy within the workplace climate and feels like he or she is a part of something bigger, they’ll be healthier, they’ll excel at their job and they’ll stick around for longer, cutting down on the costs associated with constantly hiring new people.
Getting Executive Buy-In
Executive buy-in is completely different from employee buy-in. An employee might be concerned about how interacting with a given policy will affect them and perhaps their department. But an executive has to worry about how a given plan affects the entire company.
That’s why financial and political wherewithal have to be the final building blocks for a degree centered on wellness. You need to demonstrate to decision-makers, or those who will invest decision-making power in you, that a given plan will be good for the bottom line.
Let’s look at an example: On the surface, it seems like we should value a person toughing it out when they’re ill in order to get their job done. But this argument falls apart when you look at the actual costs this creates.
First, whereas a healthy worker might get six hours of productivity in a day, an unhealthy worker probably gets something like three or four. So he or she saves their day off, but now the day off they do take is more like a day and a half. You’ve just paid for 12 hours of no work rather than 8. And if that person is contagious, he or she gets other people sick. Now those persons’ productivity is harmed. And if anyone gets really sick, now they’re taking many days off and the employer-paid portion of their insurance goes up.
This is what you need to learn about your presentation style. You need to show that a policy that embraces wellness, discourages presenteeism or does away with an archaic time-off model entirely is actually beneficial to the business in the long run.
I hope this has given you some idea of what it means to embark on an education in wellness at the post-graduate level. As you can see, it’s not as straightforward as it may initially seem. People who enter this rewarding career path have a lot of work ahead of them, but it’s work that’s essential and that many employers value.