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Dr. Tiffany D. Sanders Headshot

Engage Employees And Increase Productivity With an Employee Wellness Program

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Engaged, healthy employees are the lifelines of organizations. These employees look forward to and are passionate about their work, and cooperatively work together to grow and build a stronger company. They support a company's goals, vision and brand, and look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes, drive business and promote innovation. The cost to replace an engaged, healthy employee can be as high as 10-30% of an employee's salary. I have found through my business, Diverse Business Solutions, that a little intervention can positively impact employees and the business' bottom line.

Unfortunately, some employees are disengaged from work and look forward to Friday at 5:00pm to break free from their long workweek, challenging co-workers and disgruntled bosses. However, the weekend typically flies by at a pace that rivals the speed of light. Once Monday rolls around, these same employees dread waking up to get ready for work. They replay and regurgitate the negative interactions they've had the week prior with their direct boss and thus start their workday feeling frustrated and dejected.

According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 40% of all workers today feel overworked, pressured and squeezed to the point of anxiety, depression and disease. According to American Psychological Association, depression is the single most expensive ailment costing $44 billion dollars in lost productivity every year.

As a licensed psychologist, I have been witness to clients who regularly trickle into my clinical practice, not for things most people think they are facing -- anxiety, marital conflict or wayward children. Rather, these employees come seeking advice about what should they do with their workplace challenges. Should I quit or should I stay? Many bemoan that their current working environment is toxic, which leaves them feeling depressed, unable to sleep at night, suffering from migraines, panic attacks and lost appetite. When I ask who or what is at the root of their concerns, employees point the finger at their direct supervisor and worry if they will make it through a workday without any conflicts.

Despite all the positive words of encouragement they tell themselves --
  • You can do it;
  • Don't sweat the small stuff;
  • Stay focused on the task at hand

and even as they drink their Starbucks on the train, pray for divine work intervention and listen to relaxing music on their MP3 players, it doesn't reduce the anxiety they feel upon walking into work.

In the classic business book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the importance of getting the right managers to drive the bus. In addition to getting the right managers in place, it's critical to put in place an employee wellness program. A wellness program is needed to address the mental, emotional, physical, personal and professional health of an employee, thereby increasing employee engagement, productivity and retention.

A good wellness program involves:
  • Administering employee engagements surveys to identify which employees are engaged or contemplating quitting and uncover areas unknown to management that are contributing to employee disengagement.
  • Administering confidential health risk assessments to identify employees who are at risk for depression, anxiety and debilitating stress that can affect absenteeism and productivity. Confidentiality is key to employees so they can seek services without fear of losing their job or others finding out their needs or challenges.
  • Retaining a Human Resource and/or Mental Health professional to develop a series of workshops, lunch and learns and team building exercises to reduce employee feelings of withdrawal, isolation, and frustration. This comprehensive program will increase an employee's sense of belongingness, morale and productivity in the workplace.
  • Incentivizing demonstrated behavior improvements so that employees are encouraged to participate.

Implementing a wellness program targeting employee retention is a cost effective strategy employers should consider to reduce turnover and keep employees engaged, reduce absenteeism, improve productivity and increase their bottom line. It is the right thing to do for you, for your employees and for your business.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.