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5 Tips on How to Support Healthy, Engaged Employees

03/26/2014 12:39 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2014

What's your business's competitive advantage? I'm not talking about top secret, proprietary information -- and neither am I thinking about award-winning products. No matter your industry, your employees are your company's real competitive advantage. They're the ones making the magic happen -- so long as their needs are being met.

Luckily, understanding their needs is pretty straightforward: they want to feel that they belong and are important, that your organization cares about them, and ultimately, that they have a grip on their lives. But what about your company's needs? Believe it or not, they're probably just as straightforward. If you're like me, you want an engaged, productive workforce -- one made up of healthy, focused, and motivated people.

The catch here is that we're in the midst of a disengagement crisis, with 70 percent of employees reporting that they don't feel engaged at work, according to Gallup. What does that figure mean? That even on a good day, you're getting less than the desired amount of your employees' brainpower -- the exact asset you hired them for.

While non-work priorities will always impact people's productivity, fostering employees' well-being across the board helps them bring their best selves to work. I've talked to a lot of employees and most want the same thing: to be happy, more energetic, sharper and more focused, with the extra drive to get things done.

Traditional wellness programs -- those focused on biometrics and health risk assessments -- don't do anything to meaningfully change behavior or create more-engaged, productive employees. To really get there, we need to approach wellness and engagement in a new way -- from the employee's point of view.

So, how do you do it?

5 tips for improving employees' energy, focus & drive

  1. Allow employees to include others on their journey. Social support is critical -- no one wants to go it alone, especially when tackling major health and wellness goals. People are 57 percent more likely to lose weight when a friend or family member is involved, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed. Set your workforce up for success by allowing them to include family, friends and co-workers on their journey.

  • Support simple, healthy goals. The benefits of regular physical activity are huge. Exercise not only drives physical health, but also increases brain cognition, executive function, attention control, processing speeds, and resilience -- all while decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression. Support employees' daily exercise goals, along with their other healthy ambitions, like hitting the hay by a certain time each night. Helping them set realistic goals makes healthy changes easier, gives them something to strive for, and benefits their brainpower and your bottom line.
  • Make technology work for them -- not the other way around. For the employees with 24/7 access to their email and the office, this one's key. Tap into their motivation by offering wearable fitness devices and online platforms and programs that do the work for them by making it easy to track health progress, stay successful, and ultimately drive behavior change.
  • Fix the work environment. Set employees down the right path and make healthy choices easy. Swap the burgers in your cafeteria for salads, and switch out the soda for water. You'll help your workforce eat well and keep their waistlines and energy in check, making it easier to reach milestones.
  • Reward, reward, reward. Show employees you support their wins! Celebrate their victories -- no matter how small -- while reinforcing healthy behavior change. Cash works, but so do social incentives, perks like a flexible work schedule, or even a quick note to say, "Great job!"
  • Your employees' daily personal health engagement drives your company's larger engagement strategy. Showing your workforce you care about them with tools and programs designed to increase their energy, focus and drive organically benefits everyone. The result? Employees who walk through the door as their best selves, with a fully charged brain to boot.

    How do you thrive and create joy at work?

    This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Virgin Unite to explore ways we can all thrive at work.It's also the subject of a Google Hangout on March 31, moderated by Guy Kawasaki and featuring Arianna Huffington and Richard Sheridan. Instagram or tweet your ideas and comments by using the hashtag #workthrivejoy.

    Visit here to join us on Monday, March 31:

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