Workplace Wellness Programs: Not a One Size Fits All Solution

Companies have become so very generous in their offerings of Wellness Programs within the company. It’s a great thing. There are incentives, allowable time to workout, equipment available. Heck, there are even personal trainers available. It is an absolutely wonderful offering to give employees time for health.

However, I want to speak about those who are unable or not able to take advantage of some of these programs. Yes, in many ways, everyone can participate in something, but certainly many things are just not going to work for them.

Let’s unpack this situation.

If you’re already a pretty healthy person, you get to work on time, spend your morning fulfilling all your duties. Then, it’s lunchtime. You bring our healthy meal with you, eat slowly OR perhaps you go to the company gym (or another close by). You do the Treadmill or stationary bike, then some machines and weights. Then, you continue with lunch. Period. Or, perhaps you wait until after the day ends to do that routine. It’s healthy and important.

For others who work with you, albeit of all ages, this is not an easy task. They would love to work out and maintain that healthy lifestyle; however, physical conditions get in the way. Here are some examples:

  1. You have cancer, are undergoing treatment and have absolutely NO energy. Period.
  2. You have a kidney disease, get dialysis frequently (which means time away from work), then go to work when you can.
  3. You have a heart condition and can do some exercise, but it’s limited.
  4. You have an auto-immune disease, like fibromyalgia. You have NO energy either. In fact, you feel more like napping and are exhausted, with little strength.

The going to the gym is not working for these examples, and I could go on with many others. We could bring in the discussion of people with disabilities who are unable to work out.

I often hear from C-level leaders that they know the priority of bringing in wellness options is a commitment they make to keeping their workforce active and dependable. A few years back, I took on a hefty project. I established a questionnaire, got it into the hands of dozens of CEOs. It asked questions like:

  • What do you offer for health and wellness?
  • What benefits do you see if you were to implement a program such as this?
  • What might be the impact of not just saving money, but also continuing to make valued employees productive?  
  • What is the cost to your employees (and company) IF you don’t bring in wellness programs?
  • For people with serious illness, who are unable to navigate the work-out piece, do you bring in leadership coaches to help them deal with their illness at work issues?
  • Do you provide training for senior staff members on how to navigate Serious Illness in the workplace?

The responses were both multiple choices and included a narrative. There were more than just these few above. The enthusiasm was high in all of the questions until they saw the bottom two. In those cases, they didn’t see the need for coaching or for training to deal with illness.

I was perplexed about how to continue the conversation.  They would tell me that Wellness Programs were the answer and that with such programs it would eliminate serious illness and therefore, was a moot question.

I can only tell you that this is rather short-sighted.

More than 40% of the population suffers from some sort of serious or chronic illness. #workplacewellness Click To Tweet

They force themselves to come to work because they need the money. They need to balance their illness into the rest of their life, e.g. work, family, worship, etc. They could definitely benefit from having management involved in understanding what they are going through.

HR professionals, this is where you come in. You are the place people go to figure out what, when, how sort of questions. What training and coaching do you offer to engage these employees in feeling welcomed and supported? Does your management team truly know how to “be with” their employees? Are they comfortable helping, understanding what the individual is going through? Are they able to have these conversations with them? Do they know what they can and cannot ask or do? 

If only organizations would find ways to truly reach out and help those with serious/ chronic illness; if only managers were comfortable in having those conversations. If only people suffering weren’t afraid of losing their job. Read The Truth About Cancer and Serious Illness in the Workplace to learn the impact it has on so many. 

You have the opportunity to “take this topic out of the closet” and make it easier for people to be accepted and assisted and still able to work and feel productive.

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annfry

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