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The Common Thread that Weaves Together High-Performing Wellness Programs

In 2021, WELCOA partnered with the Returns on Wellbeing Institute to conduct a study. Why? There was a big problem that we knew needed to be solved.

The Problem

There was growing skepticism about the efficacy and impact of employee wellness programs. A consensus seemed to be forming that employers really shouldn’t expect that much from wellness programs, that they are just a nice thing to have, and don’t really make an impact on employee health. “Why Wellness Doesn’t Work” was in the headlines, but we knew there was more to the story. The reason for that is that these studies in the headlines were being done on wellness programs that solely focused on physical health, not employee well-being at the high level. We knew that studies needed to be done on wellness programs that were employee-centric, high-performing, competitive, and strategic. We wanted to know what it was that these companies were doing to succeed and if some best practices could be determined to help other programs elevate their efforts and narrow their focus through real-world examples.

Summary of the Study

A qualitative study was conducted by ROWI in the spring and summer of 2021. They sat down and had conversations with leaders from 18 organizations from a pool of wellness award-winner (8 of which are WELCOA Well Workplace Award Winners) through individual and group interviews. In these interviews, the researchers began to identify a common thread among these organizations.

Through the analysis, six best practices were common among these award-winning organizations.

The Common Thread We Found:
  1. Whole person approach – These organizations defined well-being as something beyond just the physical or mental aspects and make whole-person well-being the primary goal of their efforts. They also had strategies, programs, rich benefit packages, and resources that spoke to basic human needs (health, meaning, safety, connection, achievement, growth, resiliency).
  2. Leadership – Most of these organizations had CEOs that were enthusiastic supporters of well-being initiatives and actively participated in the wellness programs. “It starts at the top,” was a common refrain.
  3. Culture – A focus on a culture of well-being was a core aspect of most of the companies studied.
  4. Mental Health – These organizations cited mental health initiatives as being core to their strategies and worked to address both stigma and access to resources. Some of those resources included crisis and referral programs, no-cost EAPs, stress and time management classes, and designated wellness spaces for things like new mom needs, meditation, reflection, yoga, and even naps.
  5. Purpose & Social Responsibility – Many of these organizations placed a focus on providing support for employees to find purpose outside of just increasing profits or business outcomes. Some of those efforts included meditation programs, yoga, volunteer opportunities, and focused on stewardship and sustainability.
  6. Returns are Measured – Many of these organizations prioritized strategy and collecting meaningful data to inform their strategy, and then measure their returns to ensure that their strategy was delivering results.

How WELCOA Can Help

WELCOA Well Workplace award winners like the ones who participated in this study follow the Well Workplace process which takes them through the foundational 7 Benchmarks, then on to complete a Well Workplace Checklist to learn where gaps in their programs may exist and how to fill in those gaps, every step of the way. We also have a wide network of professionals who know the unique struggles of navigating wellness in our ever-evolving workplace. WELCOA members get the benefit of connecting to this network and gaining support from wellness professionals just like them.

Some resources we have to support each of the six best practices that were identified in this study are:

This blog is just a small glimpse at the research study and the work that is being done in these exceptional workplace wellness programs. You can access the full research report here.

Special thanks to our event sponsor

Koa Health