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Sunday, Dec 3, 2023

Executive Wellness is a Worthy Investment

Successful businesses and organizations bought into the concept of employee wellness long ago. The benefits of these programs – improved productivity, morale, retention – demonstrates the importance of this investment. In fact, a recent survey found 84% of large employers – those with more than 200 employees – offered their staff workplace wellness programs of some kind.

And the focus on employee wellness has increased dramatically post-COVID. The significant changes to the workplace – changes that will continue for months – means the stress and anxiety that workers already were dealing with has only magnified. If ever there was a time for wellness in the workplace, it’s now.

But who’s ensuring the wellness of those company and organization leaders?

“A company is a living – breathing being, with executives acting as the vital organs that keep it going…”
Corporate Wellness Magazine

We know the critical role an effective CEO, executive director or manager plays in any organization’s success. So, are those important leaders taking advantage of wellness programs? HR professionals work diligently to develop and provide these programs to their employees but are they also focused on ensuring the company’s leadership is also taking advantage? And have they developed specific wellness programs for that leadership? Being at the helm of a large company or organization generates a unique level of stress and pressure than must be addressed in order to adequately support executive leadership. The post-COVID workplace has only heightened those stress levels.

Getting an effective wellness program developed and launched is no easy task. It often requires a culture shift within the organization – a new emphasis on health and wellness that must be expressed and “lived” from top to bottom in the company. Effective wellness programs aren’t just standalone projects. Their goals must be sewn into the company’s policies, programs and procedures – even the organization’s behaviors. The best way to ensure a wellness program’s success is with buy-in from the entry level worker to the executive suite.

And the best way for leadership to encourage employees to participate – and therefore generate the benefits we know these programs can produce – is to demonstrate their own support – even enthusiasm – for wellness.

Wellness programs take many forms: Weight loss challenges, smoking cessation support, lunchtime yoga classes, healthy cooking demonstrations –  all contribute to improved employee health. But even those companies and organizations that provide wellness programs struggle with employee participation.

While a large percentage of workers agree with the concept, most surveys have shown those same workers are only willing to invest less than an hour a day to their wellness. That includes time devoted to preparing healthy meals, exercise, monitoring their health or any other wellness activities. Most experts agree – less than an hour may not be enough to generate the results these investments require in order to pay off.

But there are strategies companies can implement to encourage greater worker participation. At the top of that list is leadership participation.

Not only will the executives and directors themselves benefit from taking part in wellness program – better managing their stress and improving their overall health – they will simply lead by example.
• Daily walks around the block led by the boss can become a powerful symbol of both health and leadership.
• Hosting or leading healthy cooking demonstrations – with an assist from nutritionists or healthy foods chefs – will not only inform but entertain.
• Investments in old-fashioned sports teams.
• Starting meetings with guided meditation or simple breathing exercises.

These are only a few ideas and some may not be possible. Not every company or organization is located near walkable property or greenspace. But there are plenty of ways for a company, and particularly, a company’s leadership, to demonstrate the importance of their worker’s health.

We’re in the process of ending a year-long lockdown. Many of our employees that are returning to the workplace filled with anxiety – not only about their health but also about their economic future. An investment in new, or a relaunch of current wellness programs – with leadership front and center – could be the best way to welcome them back.

David Iwane, Ph.D. is vice president of human resources at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles. To learn more, contact Dr. Iwane at diwane@thechicagoschool.edu or (213) 615-7268.

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