Gone are the days of sticking it out to maximize your 401k or receive the company watch for 25 years of service. Also fading are the days of basic biometric screenings, smoking cessation programs, and counting steps on a pedometer in the hopes of lowering the cost of insurance. These simply do not inspire long-lasting habit change or loyalty. So, what does motivate employees and foster longevity? Culture and connection.
A 2016 study conducted by LinkedIn reported that millennials change jobs on average four times in their first decade out of college. That means that the average lifespan of an employee at the workplace is a short two years, a somber statistic for employers who seek cost containment, retention and longevity.
In order to combat this frightening trend, companies — including several in Austin — are stepping up wellness culture because, as studies are showing, culture is the new corporate wellness trend.
“Originally, when I got into this role, the majority of wellness programs were around cost containment,” Patrick Mercer, assistant vice president and wellness director for Frost Banking, Investments Insurance says. “However, in the last five years, there’s been a huge trend in offering programs to make personal connections, develop relationships and increase intrinsic value.”
As a result, instead of simply lowering insurance premiums, the artful job of a wellness director has been extended more radically to put holistic programs in place that will create and enhance the workplace culture, improve talent acquisition, reduce turnover and improve retention.
All of these programs lead to loyalty, increased happiness, less stress and, consequently, better overall health.
While it’s true that it’s almost expected that a company would offer some form of wellness benefits, many employees also feel like they shouldn’t have to do anything outside of their respective job duties.
“Employees feel jaded or cynical when they hear the word, ‘wellness’ because of experiences in the past or the pressure of being forced into a program that they don’t want to do,” Ben Clutter, director of employer relations for It’s Time Texas says.
Therein lies the dilemma for many employers and wellness directors. Corporate wellness programs are expected, but they shouldn’t be mandated. They are inherently valuable to the lifespan of a company, but they’re also a drain on employees who view it as another responsibility.
So, what’s a company to do? What does work in this day and age of transient employment, social media influence and short attention spans?
“Our employees are our biggest asset,” Mercer stresses. “We’d rather provide benefits that individuals care most about, so…we ask, ‘What do you want?’ In doing so, we’re trying to create a better culture and experience.”
Clutter echoes this sentiment.
“Set people up for success at work,” he says. “Put the right products in the hands of the employees if you want some real change.”
What are those products and values that employees care most about?
Employees care about cost, convenience and accessibility. It’s even more of an incentive or reward if you can provide these wellness opportunities on company time. Free gym memberships are great, but unless you can go before work or on your way home, it’s hard to take advantage of this benefit, especially if there is a family at home waiting.
This new generation of employees also places high value on balance, financial wellness, stress management and mental wellness. That’s why many larger companies now offer extensive on-site fitness options that include both physical activity and opportunities for a mindfulness practice.
Companies like Indeed offer meals and a myriad of on-site classes including yoga, pilates, bootcamp and more. They also incorporate wellness programs where employees earn a certain number of points that can then be used to earn money for various fitness reimbursements.
Blipic is an innovative tool being used by companies to foster social interaction community, and employee-driven wellness. This Austin-based app, founded by Chris Eddy, seeks to maximize participation by inspiring employees of all activity levels to find what motivates them to live a more active and healthy outdoor lifestyle.
Some people will never be motivated by steps or miles, Eddy explains, and not everyone strives to be an athlete. But there are people who love to garden, rock climb, volunteer, fish or kayak. Instead of rewarding points and incentives based on miles or steps, Blipic measures sunshine points and the tracking is all done on your phone through the app. In doing so, this levels the playing field for all employees to participate equally because they can log their own individual experiences or team up with co-workers for a collective challenge or adventure. It’s a unique employee-inspired solution that promotes social incentives and collaboration.
Innovative and creative corporate wellness initiatives get us back to what we were created to do: move more, eat whole foods, form relationships and not spend all day sitting in a chair. It’s about making people more human. Clearly, this is the antithesis of traditional corporate America, but the companies who are using apps like Blipic and prioritizing employee values are seeing results.
“Ultimately, you want to bring the best version of yourself to work,” Mercer says. “So, if your job prioritizes healthy habits, mindfulness, resilience and community, then you’ll take those values outside of the office and extend them to friends and family,”
What more could a wellness director ask for?