Blog Barista: Sam Nadarajan | August 27, 2019 | Workplace | Brew time: 5 min

If you were to ask any company representative whether or not employee wellness is important to the company, you would be hard pressed to find someone that would reply, “no.” If you were to take a random sampling of their employees, then you will be more likely to receive a scatter plot of responses. In principle, employee wellness is beneficial for the individual’s long-term health, as well as company sustainability and profitability. However, company policies and processes may reinforce the exact opposite. So, it begs the question: how do we bridge the gap between principle and practice?

At KL&A, we do not claim to have it all figured out. We are still in the process of identifying solutions that meet our ever-changing needs and the needs of our staff. However, during the course of our experimentation with different initiatives/ideas, a few core principles have emerged that guide our decision-making process. We’d like to share those with you:

Interesting Initiatives

New ideas for employee wellness initiatives are vetted against whether or not the idea will be a combination of interesting and engaging. For example, we provide a weekly circuit class with activities that vary based on the season and people in attendance. No one knows what to expect ahead of time, which helps to keep the class interesting. Mindfulness rooms, study coves, and break-out rooms also provide a change of pace from work activities in the office.

Additionally, our company has partnered with Sparrow Health (a local health system in Lansing, MI) to offer step challenges and weight loss challenges a couple of times a year. Sparrow provides the logistics to hold such challenges, and weekly raffles and end-of-challenge prizes are offered to preserve engagement.

We have discovered, as we grow, that we are able to provide even more variety to our employees. Variety is truly what makes our initiatives interesting because it allows employees to participate in so many different activities of their choosing. 

Convenient Initiatives 

Employee wellness initiatives should be employee-first, meaning that they should be convenient for the people they are meant to serve. Since our end goals are to increase engagement and participation, we work backwards from any idea towards the idea itself. We start by asking, how will this idea serve our employees? This is (partly) why we do not have any partnerships with any local gyms.

For example, since most of our employees travel from different sides of the state, and schedules vary across roles, partnering with a local gym would not give everyone a fair opportunity to participate in a fitness initiative. As a result, we chose to hold circuit classes at our main office to make participation convenient. Our facilities do not have a dedicated gym, so circuit class must be set-up and taken down each time. Emphasizing convenience over perfection, by having the class on-site at 4:30pm, led to solid and consistent participation for employees looking for a quick workout that does not take away their entire evening. 

Lasting Initiatives are Employee-Initiated

We always remind employees that if any of them have ideas for future wellness programs, KL&A is more than willing to do what is necessary to make the idea work if it fits our company’s goals.

A few years ago, one employee asked coworkers in the office if they were interested in being a part of a “let’s have fun” kickball league. The team had so much fun the first year that KL&A threw support behind it by providing team T-Shirts, fees, and taking care of logistics because we saw coworkers having fun with each other outside of a work environment.

More so, the desire to see a cure for Type 1 Diabetes is a burning passion for one of our employees, Donna. She took the initiative to get coworkers to participate in a local JDRF 5K walk, even handling advertising in the office! Now in its third year, we do what we can to encourage participation in exercise with a purpose. And, for a couple of months in the year, our Jean Fridays donation proceeds go to the organization with the intent on finding a cure.

These examples revealed to us the power of employee initiated initiatives with company support. We will support employees who are passionate about a cause that makes our company and extended community a better place, and throw our support behind such causes.

Company Policy Make or Break Initiatives

Achieving and improving employee wellness in a company, begins with the company. A company serious about such an objective will change their policy DNA to encourage and increase the chances of meeting the objective. Our policy allows for employee autonomy in the area of wellness.

Employees can take (and are encouraged to take) sick leave if they are not feeling well. If employees do not want to contaminate others but still feel well enough to work, they are more than welcome to work from home if they can. Our flex work policy allows employees to work remotely if personal circumstances necessitate it.

We encourage our employees to work with their project manager to identify a solution that works for the employee and the project. We trust that employees know what is best for their wellness, and will make the necessary decisions while keeping the success of their project in mind. We have reaped the rewards of trusting our employees first through better engagement, motivation to get things done, and making the work environment more encouraging than cumbersome.

As we continue to experiment with many different ideas, KL&A has learned that the most important principle is to keep experimenting. It is how we have uncovered new ideas, identified what works, what has not, and improved our employee’s well-being over time. Viewing potential initiatives as a collaboration with our staff instead of for our staff has yielded strong results. Not every idea will be an immediate success, but continued experimentation and evaluation will reveal opportunities that make your wellness initiatives interesting and engaging.

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