Employers that dare to truly care
Health and wellness are intrinsic states of being, coming from a place within ourselves where we organically have a sense of calm, contentment and clarity. This arises when we have – or are working toward – a knowing and feeling of purpose and meaning as the driving force of vitality in our lives. Yet in today’s fast-paced world of information overload where time and money are in ever-shrinking supply, friends and family get placed on the back burner, rest and relaxation are luxuries and completing the never-ending to-do list is a mere pipe dream, living with purpose can be a challenge. When we feel disconnected from our life’s purpose, stress and disease are more likely to occur. Thus wellness is integral to how we live and work.
Being with a sense of purpose and meaning can be enhanced when one has a group surrounding us that offers care and support for one’s continued success. This group can exist at home, in places of worship, among friends and in the workplace. Given that most people spend their days at work where they receive and negotiate health benefits, the workplace represents extraordinary possibilities for setting a tone of well-being.
Employers that dare to truly care about their employees’ well-being can create environments for happier and healthier employees; this translates into increased productivity, cost savings and general satisfaction. With the advent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers now have incentives to offer employee wellness programs as part of the health benefits package, but the rules and regulations for tracking costs and being in compliance can be confusing, and keeping up can be a burden for HR people. The response from many organizations has been to ask their broker or insurance company to provide solutions for wellness in the workplace. While we applaud the efforts to create a more healthy workforce, we are dismayed by the obvious disconnects and inefficiencies of many of these programs purchased by well-intentioned employers.
The problem with this scenario is that insurance is a financial tool that happens to be applied to health; the expertise lies in finance, not health. Most brokers offer products for a fee and most insurers are interested in lowering claims by looking only at the system in place – where dollars are coming in and going out. The response within the traditional insurance industry has been to create “plug and play” products, with financial rewards and punishment as the basis for using the products. This perpetuates the mis-understanding of wellness and often alienates those employees who need the most help. True success in wellness is not about creating an environment of fear, shame or better than… It is a shared experience that comes about when people feel a sense of belonging and caring wherever they are in each moment. In this context, leadership has an opportunity, arguably a responsibility, to offer a community of deep care that extends beyond the roles of bosses and workerbees with wellness players and losers. Employees are people with hearts and feelings and families, not consumers or commodities.
Creating wellness programs that enhance success will arise through intuitive, enlightened and caring leadership, and these subtle, yet tangible shifts in the culture of the workplace serve as a catalyst for real well-being. In creating wellness programs that meet your organizations unique needs, we invite you to consider the following:
- Does your work environment set the tone for well-being in a caring way, or do you need to make a cultural shift to support this?
- Are you working with caring experts that understand health and wellness, as well as the numbers and financial tools?
- Do you own your program such that you know where every dollar goes and can make changes any time to address specific needs and keep costs low, or do you rely on a broker to tell you what’s best?
- Does your wellness program tie directly to claims data, so you can measure results and lower costs?
- Does your wellness program address all aspects of life that may cause stress and affect health, or is it limited to physical activity?
Very few people awake each morning wanting to feel bad, and when disease arises employees become more aware than ever of their need for support. Organizations that are finding success know this intuitively and have employees within an environment of care. When folks feel respected and heard, asked instead of told and invited into an evolving place of well-being, the tone shifts to one of involved healing. In this place costs may go down while engagement naturally rises. People are not commodities or consumers of health care dollars; people are complex living beings with feelings, hearts and minds. Employers can chose to consciously build a foundation of well-being that supports all aspects of life, or they can chose to ignore certain aspects that may contribute to imbalance in this foundation. Employers who embrace this concept and who dare to care are taking the first steps toward wellness success for all.