By Heather Cobb, Sr. Director, Creative & Strategy, National Council for Behavioral Health
Workplace wellness is a buzz phrase. But what does it mean? And why does it matter?
Believe it or not, workplace wellness has been around long before World War I. In 1880, the National Cash Register introduced twice-daily exercise breaks during the workday and built an employee gym. In the 1930s, Hershey Foods built its employees their own recreation center. In 1984, Boeing became one of the first large companies to ban smoking in the workplace. Although it wasn’t referred to as “workplace wellness,” employers have implemented plans to create happier, healthier employees for more than 100 years.
And it’s come a long way – nationally and within a field where it is so very important: the mental health and addiction field.
SSTAR, a leader in addiction treatment and services, offers its employees nutrition, exercise and wellness programs such as Weight Watchers at work, nutritionist-led healthy eating groups, tobacco treatment and cessation groups, staff fitness challenges and staff-led yoga classes. A popular activity for staff members and clients is called “Walking with the CEO,” a one-mile walking meeting
with STARR CEO Nancy Paull. The organization also offers online training and development through Relias Learning, which includes many wellness offerings.
Addiction Treatment Services (ATS) in Traverse City, Mich., also relies heavily on Relias Learning to support its staff and this past year was honored with a 2016 Award of Excellence for enhancing their workforce development offerings. Relias’ online platform gives employees a place to look over the employee handbook, find past HR incidents and watch videos of mandatory staff meetings and trainings. Leadership monitors individual staff members’ training progress, certifications and credentials, and employees track their progress and develop new skills through training. ATS COO Jaycie Ransom credits Relias for improving the organization’s new staff orientation, as well.
Susan Blue, CEO and president of Community Services Group in Pennsylvania, touts the benefits of another online program called myStrength. The behavioral health treatment group currently offers employees a $300 bonus for completing five out of seven items on a list that includes items like selecting a primary physician, watching financial planning webinars, participating in mental wellness programs, engaging in wellness challenges and getting a flu shot.
Poor mental or physical health can lead to lower productivity and more missed workdays. Wellness programs help combat common chronic diseases such as obesity, depression and hypertension, which can surge health-related expenses for employers and employees both.
In the digital age, employers have endless opportunities to improve their employees’ health and overall wellbeing through online programs.