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Updated: March 18, 2024 Opinion

Viewpoint: Advancing wellness in the post-COVID workplace

As organizations strive to foster productivity, creativity, and a positive culture in a post-COVID world, prioritizing employee well-being is not only a moral obligation but a strategic investment.

A woman with glasses wearing a red shirt and scarf smiles at the camera.
Valerie Wedge

Employers who have invested in a comprehensive, holistic mental and physical wellness program find this approach has helped foster a positive work culture, a diverse workforce, and an inclusive environment valuing the organization’s greatest asset: its employees. A workplace wellness program is an attractive benefit supporting the recruitment, hiring, engagement, and retention of top-tier talent because it aims to enhance the health and well-being of the individual using its programs and services.

Here are top goals associated with wellness programs:

Enhancing mental health and stress management: Prioritizing wellness programs contributes to the prevention and management of mental health issues prevalent today. The World Health Organization says depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion annually in lost productivity. By providing access to resources such as employee assistance programs, stress management workshops, and mindfulness training, wellness programs empower employees to proactively address their mental health concerns. This can reduce stress levels, improve mood, and enhance overall quality of life for participants, thereby fostering a healthier, more resilient workforce.

Improving physical health: This includes initiatives to encourage regular exercise, healthy eating habits, weight management, and preventive care such as vaccinations and screenings. By focusing on physical health, wellness programs aim to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, improve energy levels, and enhance overall physical fitness.

Promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors: Fostering healthy lifestyle behaviors and habits contributes to long-term well-being. This includes initiatives to reduce tobacco use, promote healthy sleep habits, encourage mindfulness and self-care practices, and support positive social connections. Wellness programs often provide education, incentives, and resources to empower individuals to create healthier habits in their daily lives.

By addressing these areas, workplace wellness programs can support employees in achieving optimal health and well-being across various dimensions of their lives: physical, mental, intellectual, occupational, financial, social, and spiritual wellness.

As the demands of modern life grow, employees face more stress and burnout. Companies choosing to invest in employee wellness demonstrate their commitment to supporting them through these trying times. These organizations champion their employees’ well-being and reap the benefits of a healthier, happier workforce.

Valerie Wedge is director of the Office of Well-Being at UMass Chan Medical School in Worcester. UMass Chan was named to the 2023 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America list for offering employees a variety of mental health, wellness, and support initiatives.

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