05/02/2012 11:51 am ET Updated Jul 02, 2012

Moving From Wellness to Well-Being

To create healthy and productive workforces, organizations are starting to expand their benefits programs to focus on overall employee well-being. Employers are taking a more holistic approach to wellness by touching on additional aspects of an individual beyond the mere physical to include emotional/mental, spiritual and financial well-being. A study on Wellness Trends (ComPsych 2011) looked at emotional well-being and its impact on an individual's progress toward desired health. According to the survey, the state of many employees' emotional health is sub-optimal, making a healthy lifestyle more difficult to achieve:
  • 40 percent say a physical health or emotional problem has interfered with normal activities with family, friends, neighbors or groups.
  • 36 percent say they are tense or anxious much of the time.
  • 32 percent report being unable to stop thinking about their problems.

In a survey on Total Rewards and Employee Well-Being (2012), WorldatWork explored just how much employers grasp the importance of well-being, as well as the ways they are using it to create a win for both employee and employer. The survey found that while a majority of employers offer traditional wellness programs, many are starting to sponsor programs that add to an employee's broader well-being. Indeed, it was encouraging to find that organizations are giving employees the tools they need to make behavioral changes that ultimately drive health care costs down, creating more productive and engaged employees. A majority (77 percent) expect to increase the number of well-being programs and activities offered. Employer-sponsored well-being programs currently focus on physical fitness, stress reduction, work-life balance and financial education. Employers wanting to increase the chances for success ought to consider expanding eligibility for certain programs (such as financial counseling) to involve the employee's family members.

Employers that wish to support employees in becoming healthy can launch new programs to coincide with the fourth annual National Employee Wellness Month (NEWM) in June. NEWM is an annual initiative that provides business leaders with fresh ideas and proven strategies around prevention and wellness.