Employees Demand Better Wellness Benefits — and That’s Good News for Employers

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Traditional benefits offerings are no longer sufficient in the eyes of many employees. Today, workers’ expectations are changing, and employees are holding their employers to higher standards when it comes to workplace perks and benefits packages.

With the threat of burnout looming large, employees are centering workplace wellness, asking their employers to help them live healthier lifestyles at home and at work. The employers who are listening are responding by offering new arrays of wellness benefits. Those that fail to heed workers’ demands may be jeopardizing their relationships with current and future employees.

Employees Want Employers to Be Partners in Their Health

Long hours, prolonged periods of sitting, and constant stress used to be par for the course at work. However, many now recognize the negative effects these things can have on a person’s physical and mental health. Employee burnout is on the rise, and research has shown its effects extend far beyond the office: Those who feel significant work-related stress are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like overeating, leading to weight gain and decreased stamina.

Regular fitness routines would likely help combat unhealthy workplace behaviors, but with very little free time and tight finances, many employees simply can’t make physical fitness a priority. That’s why workers are increasingly turning to their employers for support.

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It’s no wonder employees want to incorporate more fitness into their lives. Physical activity can reduce anxiety and stress and promote the release of endorphins, which are like natural painkillers. Studies show that as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day can help reduce depression, one of the leading causes of employee burnout and turnover.

Physical fitness can also boost employee work performance. Employees who stay active tend to have more energy, which allows them to be more productive while at work. Moreover, regular exercise can improve memory, thinking skills, and mood. Exercise can also offer relief for aches, tension, and chronic pain, all of which can prevent employees from being comfortable and focused during the workday if left untreated.

A recent survey on employee attitudes toward wellness benefits resulted in some findings that should be concerning to employers. More than half of respondents said wellness benefits were the most important factor in the workplace, while slightly less than half of respondents also said they considered their employers responsible for their health. Almost two-thirds of respondents said they would leave their current jobs for opportunities with better work perks, showing that employers need to take their employees’ health seriously or risk losing top talent.

Employee Wellness Is Organizational Wellness

Employers naturally want to increase productivity, retain staff, and attract new talent. Offering fitness-focused benefits like discounted gym memberships, in-office gyms, and group fitness incentives is one key way to keep top talent energized, satisfied, and free of burnout.

However, as employers start to offer fitness benefits, they must also take steps to ensure employees are encouraged and incentivized to use those benefits. There are simple ways to do this: sponsoring team fitness activities, offering healthy snack options in the office, and helping employees incorporate fitness — even in small ways — into their daily schedules.

Employers should go beyond physical fitness to support employee wellness holistically.  Encourage employees to use PTO days when they need to recharge and destress. Introduce mandatory breaks throughout the day to help employees unwind and get some quick exercise in.

When you encourage and support employee health and fitness, you can be confident your employees’ work output will be exceptional. You will also build more goodwill with both current and future employees.

Moreover, companies that offer fitness benefits are also more likely to attract employees who already live active lifestyles. As your workplace grows healthier, employees will use fewer and fewer sick days, burnout will become less of a risk, and you may even be able to reduce your overall health insurances costs.

Employers should take note of the risk of not offering robust employee wellness benefits. An unhealthy workplace not only hurts the individual employee, but it can also hurt the overall success of the organization, as stressed, lethargic employees produce subpar work. In order to attract and retain healthy, happy, motivated employees, employers should offer wellness benefits that help workers and the organization alike.

Paul O’Reilly-Hyland is CEO and founder of Zeamo.

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