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Health and wellness in the workplace: Promoting work-life balance

05 Dec
A group of diverse business professionals, smiling together and celebrating a healthy workplace.

Health and wellness are a vital part of any workplace. Encouraging employees to take care of their health contributes to a proper work-life balance, makes employees more productive, and improves workplace morale.

This article will help you learn more about best practices to promote proper workplace wellness.

The importance of health and wellness at work

Adequate work-life balance has been shown to improve workplace morale and productivity.1 When employees are well-rested, healthy, and able to manage their stress well, they have more mental and physical energy to devote to their tasks. Though employees should be taking care of their wellness on their own, it often requires the employer's encouragement and involvement to really support these goals. If employees don’t feel encouraged to take care of their mental and physical health, they may sacrifice their work-life balance due to the current attitudes surrounding work in the US known as "hustle culture."2

Strategies for promoting health and wellness in the workplace

Workplace wellness can be broken down into a few different areas. It’s important to consider all areas of employee health for a holistic and well-rounded wellness approach.

Physical health initiatives

One way to improve employee well-being is to include physical health initiatives in the workplace. Management can encourage regular physical activity by including a gym in the office or supplementing a gym membership as an employee benefit. If there are communal food options in the office, such as a vending machine or breakroom snack selection, employers can consider swapping them with healthier choices.

For employees who are at their desks all day, employers might give them ergonomic workspaces or flexible seating options. Consider offering standing or walking desks, kneeling chairs, or extra-supportive seating to improve posture and reduce pain. Ensure all desks and keyboards are the right height to reduce shoulder strain, and computer monitors are elevated to eye level for proper neck positioning.3

Mental health support

Supporting mental health in the workplace is just as important as physical health. Poor employee mental health can lead to high turnover rates, chronic absence, and reduced productivity.4 Improving mental wellness starts with reducing stigma around issues such as depression, anxiety, and burnout. But it has to go beyond that. Offering employee assistance programs can help workers reach counseling resources to which they might not otherwise have access.5

Mental health can also be improved through stress management at work. Encouraging practices such as journaling, meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness at work can help reduce employee stress.6

Work-life balance programs

An important part of workplace wellness is proper work-life balance. There are many ways to encourage employees to balance their work obligations with their personal lives. Offering flexible work arrangements, for example, allows an employee to take care of their home and family without getting behind on work. Employees should also be encouraged to take advantage of PTO and vacation policies when they need a break.

A new movement in work-life balance also encourages work-life integration. This is where employees blend their work and personal lives. This may involve multitasking, such as completing basic chores while in a virtual meeting, or handling childcare while completing basic work tasks.7

Creating a wellness culture

Encouraging wellness in the workplace isn’t just encouraging healthy choices. It’s about creating a culture of wellness throughout the company. For example, it’s important to make sure leadership isn’t just supporting health initiatives but is actively involved in them. If the company leaders take care of themselves, it will show the other employees how important health is.

Employers can also offer incentives for workers to get involved in wellness initiatives. Creating wellness competitions or offering rewards for reaching wellness milestones can give staff the extra encouragement they need to take care of themselves.

While implementing health initiatives, keep track of what programs are most popular. Look for measurable impact in the workforce and target future programs around increasing those outcomes.

The role of technology in workplace health

Technology has advanced into many areas of modern life, and health and wellness is no exception. Digital wellness tools can play a role in improving the health of employees. This may include taking advantage of things such as telehealth services and diet or exercise apps. Some apps even allow employers to track employee health data and use it to improve future programs and their outcomes, though this may not be the right solution for every organization.8

Building resilience and coping skills

Helping employees build resilience and use coping skills can help them mentally and physically bounce back faster from obstacles or other frustrations. Mental and emotional resiliency training may include things such as overcoming challenges, healthy interpersonal relationships, recognizing burnout, and coping with stress both at home and at work.9

Management should also be trained in supporting employees. Team members should feel comfortable going to their managers or HR personnel with challenges or stressors that they find difficult to surmount in the workplace.

Case studies and success stories

Many companies have already implemented successful workplace wellness programs. Some have taken a holistic wellness approach, focusing on balancing all areas of health. Others have incorporated health challenges, with competitions and prizes for achieving wellness goals. Other successful programs include creating healthier cafeteria options, emphasizing mental health, and even offering education in financial wellness.10

These examples showcase how organizations, beyond theoretical strategies, have made tangible impacts on the mental and physical health of their workforce, contributing to a harmonious work-life balance:

Google's holistic well-being approach

Google, a tech giant renowned for its innovative workplace practices, has been a pioneer in prioritizing employee well-being. Beyond traditional health initiatives, Google offers on-site fitness centers, meals and snacks, ergonomic support, massage programs, workspaces that promote well-being and collaboration, and comprehensive mental health support.

This holistic approach has not only improved the overall health of their employees but has also positively influenced their work-life balance.11

Microsoft's flexibility for work-life harmony

Microsoft has been a trailblazer in recognizing the importance of work-life balance, especially in the hybrid work era. According to an article authored by Microsoft’s Head of People, Dawn Klinghoffer, “Between April and November 2020, employees’ satisfaction with work-life balance dropped by 13 percentage points,” as workloads and meeting times increased in a hybrid work format.12

Understanding that employees have diverse personal commitments, Microsoft implemented flexible work arrangements, allowing employees to better integrate their professional and personal lives by prioritizing work, setting boundaries, and reevaluating meetings. This approach has not only boosted job satisfaction but has also contributed to a more positive and inclusive work environment in the post-COVID era.12

Salesforce's mental health priority

Salesforce, a global leader in cloud-based software, places a significant emphasis on mental health support. Recognizing the impact of stress on overall well-being, Salesforce provides employee assistance programs, counseling services, and stress management resources. This commitment to mental health has resulted in decreased absenteeism and increased employee satisfaction.13

Johnson & Johnson's comprehensive wellness programs

Johnson & Johnson, a multinational healthcare company, has implemented comprehensive wellness programs that go beyond physical health. Their initiatives include founding the Human Performance Institute in Florida which promotes work-life balance, running mental health awareness campaigns, hosting stress management workshops, and providing financial well-being resources specifically:

  • Telecommuting
  • Flexible hours
  • On-site child care
  • Adoption assistance
  • Generous maternity and paternity leaves:
    • 17 weeks of maternity and adoptive leave
    • Eight weeks of paternity leave

This holistic approach has not only improved the health of their employees but has also created a positive and supportive workplace culture.14

Incorporating employee feedback for ongoing success

These real-life case studies underscore the importance of tangible actions in fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes employee well-being. By learning from the experiences of industry leaders like Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and Johnson & Johnson, organizations can gain insights into effective strategies for promoting mental and physical health, ultimately contributing to a more balanced and fulfilling work-life experience.

Overcoming challenges in implementing health and wellness initiatives

There are, of course, some challenges in implementing workplace wellness programs. Companies with limited budgets allocated for wellness may have a hard time offering free programs to employees. There may also be cultural barriers to wellness, such as the previously referenced hustle culture, which encourages workers to keep striving for more and more in their work lives, at the expense of rest. Additionally, some employees may resist wellness initiatives, even if there are no financial or physical barriers for them to do so.

It's essential to recognize that despite these challenges, the journey toward implementing health and wellness initiatives is a transformative one and comes with tremendous, long-term upsides for both employees and the company. By fostering a culture that prioritizes well-being, companies can create a positive ripple effect that goes beyond the initial hurdles.

As awareness grows and a collective commitment to employee health strengthens, organizations can gradually overcome these challenges, leading to a healthier, more engaged, and ultimately more productive workforce. Embracing these hurdles as opportunities for growth allows businesses to build a workplace that not only thrives but genuinely cares for the well-being of its employees.

Prepare to lead a business that prioritizes health

An online MBA from the University of Kansas School of Business prepares you for all aspects of a successful business career, including improving the health and wellness of your workforce. KU's top-ranked program teaches you the leadership skills and best practices you need to create a healthy and productive workplace.15

Contact an admissions outreach advisor to learn more about KU’s affordable, flexible, and impactful online MBA program.

  1. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9253617/
  2. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2023/02/16/the-pros-and-cons-of-hustle-culture-how-to-work-hard-without-burning-out/
  3. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/7-things-you-need-for-an-ergonomically-correct-workstation/
  4. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10926-008-9121-8
  5. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from opm.gov/frequently-asked-questions/work-life-faq/employee-assistance-program-eap/what-is-an-employee-assistance-program-eap/
  6. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from apa.org/topics/healthy-workplaces/work-stress
  7. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from uschamber.com/co/grow/thrive/work-life-integration-vs-work-life-balance
  8. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from mhealth.jmir.org/2020/6/e16723
  9. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from workplacementalhealth.org/mental-health-topics/resilience
  10. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/the-employee-wellness-case-studies-that-will-inspire-you
  11. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from https://googlerbenefits.withgoogle.com/
  12. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from https://hbr.org/2021/12/hybrid-tanked-work-life-balance-heres-how-microsoft-is-trying-to-fix-it
  13. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from salesforce.com/news/stories/salesforce-employee-mental-health/
  14. Retrieved November 10, 2023, from fastcompany.com/90966495/lessons-on-work-life-balance-from-apple-microsoft-netflix-and-others
  15. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from usnews.com/education/online-education/university-of-kansas-OBUS0696/mba