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Wellsource Blog

Shifting Gears

Written by Wellsource

May 10, 2016

Shifting Gears 

Total well-being approach to wellness gaining traction

What’s the bottom line? It’s the kind of straight-to-the-point question you would expect from a CEO, especially about spending money on wellness programs and incentives. The recurring question echoed in boardrooms and budget meetings across corporate America even prompted a team of Harvard researchers to dig up a dollar figure a few years ago.

But are health outcomes and cost-savings the only benchmarks you should look at to promote health, prevent disease, lower healthcare costs, and improve quality of life for your employees or participants? Probably not.

“There is a shift toward total well-being that has started to occur,” says wellness program consultant Shawn Meyers. “For example, last year Virgin Pulse published the results of a wellness industry survey. They found that 78 percent of employers are going beyond a focus on physical wellness to include broader well-being initiatives.”

Old-School Wellness Programs Only Part of the Solution

It wasn’t that long ago that the majority of wellness programs focused entirely on exercise, nutrition, and disease prevention. Encouraging people to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and eat healthier makes sense. But it’s a short-sighted approach to wellness because there are so many other factors at play that can have an impact on health, happiness, and productivity.

So what do effective wellness programs look like now?

Wellness Program Initiatives Are Expanding

“Programs designed to encourage physical activity and healthy eating habits aren’t going away,” says Meyers. “Many of today’s most serious chronic diseases and leading causes of death are linked to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. But changing behaviors and promoting well-being doesn’t stop there.”

Take a snapshot of the wellness program initiatives offered by the Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America, and Virgin’s survey results about the expanding definition of wellness is evident. Exercise, nutrition, and disease prevention initiatives still top the list for most organizations trying to make a positive impact on the health and well-being of employees or participants. But wellness program initiatives are also expanding to include areas such as:

  • Financial wellness
  • Mental and emotional wellness
  • Occupational wellness
  • Social wellness
  • Environmental wellness

“Programs under one of these broader areas might include things like saving for retirement, paying off student loans, or opportunities to volunteer in the community,” says Meyers. “By initiating well-being programs that focus on areas that go beyond physical activity and nutrition, organizations have the opportunity to create great places to work with employees who are happier, healthier. and enjoy a higher overall quality of life.”

What changes have you made in your wellness program to promote total well-being?

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Don Hall, DrPH, CHES, Founder Wellsource