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Well-being in the office is not just for the big corporate. Here we tell you how small businesses can create a culture of health.

March 6, 2020

A leading researcher in labor welfare says that naps, salads, open dialogue and leading by example are a great way to start.

13 min read

This story appears in the March 2020 issue of Mexico . Subscribe »

Well-being in the office is not just for the big corporate. Here we tell you how small businesses can create a culture of health.Well-being in the office is not just for the big corporate. Here we tell you how small businesses can create a culture of health.

In the last decade, the welfare industry has skyrocketed to be a $ 4.2 trillion dollar business. In the saturated personal development market, health innovations compete with supplements for the dominance of the golden egg. Meanwhile, the “hustle and bustle” culture has promoted a certain type of work worship that has many people exhausted, wondering how much they should really expect (or give) of their jobs. In the midst of all this, well-being within the workplace is on the rise: more than 80 percent of large companies and 50 percent of small companies have implemented programs to protect it. But despite their efforts, there are big questions about what really works.

This is something that Dr. Ron Goetzel has dedicated his career to. Goetzel is a scientist and director of the Institute of Health and Productivity Studies at Johns Hopkins, as well as VP of applied research at IBM Watson Health. He says that the first thing we should consider is the way we think about what “works.” Traditionally, the measure of success has been the return on investment (ROI), or what a company saves or decreases in health costs, reducing absenteeism as a result of investments made in welfare initiatives. Goetzel does many of these analyzes. Since 1994, he has directed the Health Project , which gives annual recognition to companies that have effective and demonstrable welfare initiatives. He recently led a study showing that in a period of 14 years, a portfolio of 26 of these companies had excellent results. The 26 companies that really invested in welfare had a 325 percent return on shares. The data suggests that welfare programs, done correctly, do give dividends.

Even so, Goetzel says that more and more researchers in his line of work are considering something called 'investment value' (VOI), above ROI. “It's hard to assign a dollar value to happiness, motivation, attraction or retention of talent,” he says. “So now many companies are thinking about the investment value. If they are spending money, and keeping their people healthy (not only physically, but mentally, socially, intellectually, spiritually and financially), what value does this have? Usually, a number that matters to companies is commitment. Do people come to work loving their work, their colleagues, their boss? And finally, am I reducing health costs? ”

It is notable that in the United States, 60 percent of people say that their work is “bad” or “mediocre”, but that they have to have it (many even more than one). Employment is at an all time low, but the rates of suicide, depression and addiction are rising. It is logical to think that if Americans go to work, that is a place where welfare initiatives can reach them. As Goetzel told CNBC last year, “The younger workforce is beginning to ask how their company is socially responsible, and this is another element of that. The way you treat the health of workers and the footprint in the community, and the handprint in the community, has a considerable impact on the reputation and trust of the consumer, and will be increasingly important. ”

So wellness initiatives are not a fad. But knowing where to start can be particularly difficult for start-up entrepreneurs, or for small businesses looking to grow. What, from the wide range of wellness offers, is it worth it? Dr. Goetzel offers some suggestions for thinking about how to integrate health and wellness into your business.

Instead of a wellness program, create a “total health” culture

Offering medical insurance is only the first step. Well-being initiatives that do work do not conceptualize their plans as a program or classify a package of offers and benefits other than current work, but think of well-being as something intrinsic to the work culture. You cannot expect people to be healthy when working inexplicable hours or have excessive levels of responsibilities. You cannot simply offer a health advice and leave it that way. And you can't simply pay for a health plan and send your employees to a website to navigate it alone. Goetzel says that if you really want to improve the health of your employees, you have to consider every aspect of their well-being: physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, social and spiritual. (Clarifies: “For some people, spirituality means religion, but for others it has to do with a sense of purpose or a mission in life and wondering if all other aspects of their life can align with that mission”). Goetzel says it is easier to think about structuring welfare initiatives in “three broad categories: policies, programs and support for the environment.”

To create a comprehensive culture of health, “policies” function as guidelines, such as having flexible hours and maternity or paternity leave, or feedback processes that give workers a sense of agency. “Programs” are optional benefits such as financial incentives for healthy goals or even classes (cooking, exercise, technology, etc.) and the offer of professional services (nutritionists, chronic disease specialists, financial advisors, etc.). And by “environment” refers to the effort made by the company to create a work environment with healthy options: water instead of soda, stairs instead of elevators, natural light instead of artificial light, etc.

Lead by example

It all starts from above. The company's leadership commitment is the first step for a culture of well-being to pass from theory to practice. And one of the best ways in which a boss can foster a culture of well-being is to promote the quality of life of his employees outside the office. “If the leader sends emails at 4 in the morning, saying 'I need this to be ready at 6 in the morning', that's not right,” says Goetzel. “What I know is good is when a boss walks around the office at 6 in the afternoon and says' Hey, it's already 6, go home, go with your family, with your friends … go! If they have to arrive fresh tomorrow to finish what they are doing, that's fine. Do it. But right now, it's time for you. ' A boss who is guided by something like that makes all the difference. ”

Incorporate feedback from the beginning

Communication is absolutely essential to ensure that wellness initiatives are being well received and helping who should help. For small businesses in particular, Goetzel recommends simply asking employees what they need. “The first thing you should do is have information. Discover what your employees want. Want to know how to prepare healthier food? Do you want to exercise more? Do you want to learn to manage stress, to meditate? Do you want yoga sessions or do you want aerobics? Before introducing a program go and ask, talk to them individually, in groups, or even in surveys. That may be the basis for: 'This is what they told me. This is what we are going to offer in response, and that is what we are going to do. '”

For this, Goetzel advises not to stop communicating and evaluating, by all possible means. “Honestly, small businesses cannot afford to do large studies. You know, we do many studies for large companies. But it is enough to have qualitative data: 'What do you think of this program? How satisfied are you with this? What would you change? Has the team's morale improved? Has your level of job satisfaction improved? If you had another job offer tomorrow, would you take it? These types of questions are relevant. ”

Build a work environment that promotes health

The influence of the environment has a measurable impact on people's mood and decisions. A healthy work space is made up of many small decisions. “Obvious policies are things like 'no smoking',” says Goetzel. “But it is really important that there is healthy food in the cafeteria and at company events (in fact, better if it is cheaper than junk food). A company I worked with had a salad bar at the entrance to the cafeteria, and they looked delicious. Do you want a hamburger? Well, you have to train on the grill and wait 30 minutes to be prepared. At the cash register, do you have cookies or apples? Which is easier, get water or a soda? ”

Giving people space and permission to move is another suggestion from Goetzel. If you have an office with outdoor spaces, the walks are fantastic. If you only have interior space, put on a treadmill. If you have stairs, Goetzel recommends making them more attractive. “Instead of people going up and down the elevator all day, open some stairs and invite them to look at paintings or listen to music as they climb.”

Some of the most famous work spaces are in Silicon Valley. But Goetzel says that he usually does not point to large technology companies as beacons of true corporate wellbeing because the goal of many of these advantages is to get people to spend more time in the office, and that is a mentality that we have to get away

“I visited Google, you know? And it's like going to Disneyland, ”he says. “Is the paradise. They have massages and fitness centers with classes all the time. They have bicycles. They have free food, smoothies. But people work too much there, most because they are bright and love to work, but even then, they will eventually end up exhausted. ”

However, there is a trend in cooler offices that Goetzel does approve: nap rooms. “Now there are big companies that offer nap rooms or meditation rooms for their workers, and I am a great advocate of this. Taking a 30-minute break makes perfect sense, especially for sensitive jobs with safety issues, such as doctors or carriers. But even for a stockbroker or a journalist, a half-hour break probably increases your productivity. ” However, he reiterates that sanctioning naps should not depend on workers entering at 6 am and leaving at 9 pm “You have to give people a balance between work life and work.”

Choose your suppliers carefully and get involved every step of the way

There is an infinite variety of wellness services that you can offer your employees to build a culture of wellness. But Goetzel says you can't create a network of external providers, such as coaches, financial advisors, nurses, disability managers, conflict negotiation experts, workers' compensation specialists, etc., and then disregard the matter. These providers can easily duplicate their services, or not be able to see the real problems of the company.

If you decide to hire a comprehensive wellness provider, make sure you get all the receipts. “My advice was to go with a player who has a good record,” says Goetzel. “Someone who has been doing it for a long time and has good references. Can they show you data on how they made a difference in another company? Because they can have the cutest pamphlets, but that is only a sign that they have a good marketing department. If nobody uses their services and nobody is being healthier, why choose them? ”

Once you've chosen a provider, Goetzel says it's the beginning of the road. “For small businesses, I would go first with the health plan,” he says, “but you should know that it will be very superficial and may not be what your business needs. You must be aware of what happens. You can't just hire a provider and say 'Make my people healthy, call me when you're done'. ”

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