This is the second post in a six-part series focusing on the Six Dimensions of Wellness: emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual. Each post features a different dimension of wellness. This post will discuss occupational wellness and the importance of providing employees a feeling of purpose and satisfaction at work.
Quick! What image comes to mind when you hear the term “occupational wellness”? If you think of stand-up desks and ergonomic keyboards you’re not alone. Some people associate occupational wellness with these types of workplace innovations, designed to minimize tension on the joints from hours spent sitting at the office. Others may think of occupational health, which deals with workplace safety and injuries caused by hazardous work environments. However, occupational wellness moves beyond physical aspects of work and “recognizes personal satisfaction and enrichment” that each of us gains through our work.
“When I think of occupational wellness, I think of a well-rounded work environment where employees are free to learn and grow, with all of their basic health needs being met,” says Dr. Brittany Carter, Wellsource Director of Health & Research.
As you develop wellness programs, you’ll want to include a comprehensive occupational wellness emphasis. Why? Because on average, U.S. full-time employees spend one-third of their adult life at work. This is such a significant amount of time that job satisfaction and fulfillment become some of the most important factors in a career. Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. do not feel that their jobs include these components. Less than one-third of Americans are happy with their work, and 70% of Americans currently employed are searching for other jobs.
Unfulfilling work can take a toll on physical and mental health, increasing risk for chronic illnesses. Those in unhealthy work environments tend to gain more weight, and stress from work can increase the risk of heart attacks. Workplace stress also increases absenteeism and attrition, decreases productivity, and contributes to feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety. Stanford/Harvard researchers say that at least 120,000 deaths annually can be partly attributed to workplace stress (long work hours, job insecurity, and lack of work-life balance).
On the other hand, an employee’s work environment can encourage them to not only stay but thrive. Having challenging work and work-life balance are the top two reasons employees stay with their company long term, according to a survey by the Aberdeen Group. A culture of corporate wellness helps employees feel good about themselves, their work, and their employer.
Can money buy happiness and job satisfaction?
It turns out money can buy happiness…to a point. A National Academy of Sciences study found an increase in salary can increase happiness, but the beneficial affects plateau when basic needs are met and individuals are able to live comfortably. That happens at $75,000 a year. After that, a further increase in salary will not equate to greater job satisfaction or happiness.
Many employees also have a need for consistency between company and personal values. Nine out of ten people would choose a company with values similar to their own over a job that pays more. They’re even willing to take a 21% pay cut to work there. (Millennials would take a 34% pay cut.) No matter what the income level of a company’s workforce, it’s always best to focus on occupational wellness for happy, productive, long-term employees.
A comprehensive occupational wellness program doesn’t just track employees’ nutrition and fitness, it encourages employers to make sure the entire staff feels fulfilled in their work life. Here are five ways you can bring attention to occupational wellness in each health program you administer.
1. Remember the mission & vision
Mission statements aren’t just for show. It turns out that having a mission that both leadership and employees identify with and believe in has a great impact on job satisfaction. Not only that, but having employees that feel a sense of purpose in their jobs directly relates to productivity. A Deloitte survey showed that mission-driven companies have 40% higher retention levels. In addition, 73% of employees who report working for a purpose-driven company are engaged, while only 23% at non-purpose driven companies are engaged. Employers have noticed, too. Seven in ten business execs say embracing company mission boosts employee productivity.
When it comes to having a purpose and feeling fulfilled at work, employees need to be able to believe in the big picture goals of the company, which they contribute to each day through their work. Encourage managers to make sure the people they hire believe in the mission of their company from the beginning. They should include interview questions about candidates’ values to see if they align with the company’s values. It would be difficult for most people to spend hours each day working toward a goal that contradicts their personal values, and it could lead to conflict down the road. Employers should hire people who support their company’s vision and mission, and then reinforce the importance of their vision and mission at company-wide meetings, so that each member of the team is reminded of why they’re doing the work they do each day.
2. Promote the ‘work hard, play hard’ philosophy
Another important element of occupational wellness is work-life balance. Many people feel the need to work long hours in the competitive world we live in. But as the proverb says: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” High-pressure environments can do more than make workers boring and bored. They can have a devastating impact on employee health. A study of over 10,000 participants conducted by University College London found that white-collar workers who usually worked three or more hours longer than their normal work day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than those who did not work overtime.
Overexertion of employees can also be very expensive for employers. Work stress costs U.S. businesses $300 billion a year because of absenteeism, presenteeism (working while sick), employee turnover, work-related injuries, and higher medical costs. According to Gallup reports, only 32% of employees are engaged at work. This lack of engagement costs between 450 and 550 billion per year. All of these figures indicate that it pays to make sure that employees can find purpose and fulfillment in their work, and that they have a healthy balance between productive time spent at the office and time to relax with friends and family.
Employees can’t feel energized and be productive at work if they put in too much overtime. Encourage managers to emphasize to their employees the value of working a reasonable number of hours each week so that they can spend time with loved ones, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Work-life balance also means that employers offer enough vacation time and sick leave for their employees to have the chance to recharge their batteries.
3. Provide peace of mind
A large component of allowing employees to enjoy their time outside of work, free from worry, is providing health insurance. There’s a reason that health insurance was ranked the most important benefit in a recent Glassdoor study. Population health and wellness managers understand the value of affordable health coverage for employees. When negotiating insurance contracts, encourage corporate executives to generously supplement premium costs for their employees. It can improve physical health outcomes, as employees are more likely to keep up with regular preventive exams and checkups when they’re covered by insurance. It also offers major stress relief, as employees don’t have to choose between paying for costly premiums out of pocket or living without coverage. Employees whose health insurance is covered experience not only less stress but also a morale boost, knowing that their employer cares about their wellbeing. Make sure the managers you work with understand the importance of removing this burden from their employees.
4. Never underestimate the value of professional development
Providing growth opportunities is an important way corporations can help their employees achieve job satisfaction. Having the chance to develop transferable skills and earn promotions motivates employees because they feel like they’re getting more out of working than a paycheck—they’re learning things that will improve their performance and keep their company relevant.
Providing flexibility in a job is another great way to motivate employees. Encourage employers to find out about their employees’ career goals and, wherever possible, find ways to incorporate their interests and the skills they would like to develop into their position. This way, they feel that their manager cares about their individual development and success, giving them a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Employees want to be challenged and feel like they’re acquiring skills that they can use throughout their career. There are plenty of opportunities for managers to help them accomplish this. They can encourage employees to take risks so that they don’t become bored. Providing them the opportunity to attend conferences, workshops, or training enhances their knowledge of the industry and helps them grow as professionals. This will give them a feeling of personal growth, while at the same time provide employers with a more knowledgeable workforce.
It’s important for workers to feel that their efforts are recognized. This might come in the form of a promotion, award, or a simple thank you. Beyond the pay raise that often accompanies a promotion, this act provides a high level of satisfaction for ambitious, hardworking employees. It also acts as a great motivator for employees to be able to see the hard work of their colleagues be rewarded. There are at least 101 effective ways to reward employees. Share some ideas with the organizations with whom you work.
5. Foster a positive work environment
A fun workplace contributes to work satisfaction and fulfillment. Encourage employers to plan lunchtime socials, group walking breaks, or other activities (inside and outside of work) so that employees can bond and feel a sense of comradery in the workplace. Workplace administrators can try offering volunteer opportunities and corporate social responsibility programs so that employees can feel like they’re making a difference in the world. Creating this type of culture can reduce employee turnover in the long run.
Public health and wellness professionals can rely on these tactics to provide the most enriching work experience for employees, which will enhance occupational wellness. Making sure employers have these occupational wellness components in place can lead to better employee retention, less absenteeism, and a more productive workforce. To find out more on how you can incorporate occupational wellness in your health program, check out Creating a Culture of Health.
Wellsource, Inc. has been a premier provider of evidence-based Health Risk Assessments and Self-Management Tools for four decades, making us one of the longest-serving wellness companies in the industry. With a strong reputation for scientific research and validity, we offer an innovative family of products that empower wellness companies, health plans, ACOs, and healthcare providers to inspire healthy lifestyles, prevent disease, and reduce unnecessary healthcare costs. Our assessments connect lifestyle choices with healthy outcomes, measure readiness to change for maximum results, and drive informed decisions with actionable data.
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