4 pillars of wellness at the workplace

27 February 2019

Only 9% of the population globally have access to workplace wellness programs

According to a recent report by the Global Wellness Institute, “most of the world’s 3.4 billion workers are unwell –– 52% are overweight or obese and 76% report they’re struggling with their wellbeing.”

Even more alarming is the fact that only 9% of the population globally have access to workplace wellness programs, with that figure falling to just 5% in Asia. And, with the cost of unwell workers rising to approximately 10-15% of total global economic output, when it comes to the future of wellness at work, businesses must invest or risk being left to deal with serious repercussions.

By embracing wellness management in the workplace, businesses have the potential to realise positive returns –– from a more engaged and driven workforce to a decrease in absenteeism. But wellness management is more than just a means to an end, and it shouldn’t exist as a one size fits all program or perk.

There are a number of tangible and intangible factors that influence an individual’s sense of wellbeing. Today’s definition of what it means to be ‘well’ is commonly understood to be as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. A state that goes beyond freedom from disease or infirmity, and one that emphasises a proactive approach to one’s own health and wellbeing.

“A company’s productivity is directly impacted by their employees’ physical health, mental wellbeing and level of engagement and workplace satisfaction. We do encourage our clients to take a holistic approach when addressing these requirements. Relying solely on the existing employee benefits and insurance policies is certainly not enough to meet the needs of today’s workforce,” commented Richard Roper, Managing Director, JLT Benefits Solutions (Asia).

The explosive growth of the $4.2 trillion wellness industry highlights just how seriously the quest for wellness has become. And in an era where millennials, a significant proportion of the workforce, are prioritising their wellness more than any other generation, companies will be in a better position to attract and retain top performers when they show support to their employees in achieving mental and physical wellness.

Where Should Employers focus their efforts?

With that in mind, we explore the four key pillars of wellness that businesses should be concentrating on when integrating wellness management into the workplace, and how to encourage staff adoption.

  1. Exercise

    Exercise has been proven to have a multitude of physical and mental benefits. In the long term, employees who lead an active lifestyle are more likely to experience a boost in productivity, helping to drive company-wide revenue. In the short term, thanks to the immediate effects of exercise, employees may feel a boost of energy and alertness, helping to sharpen their decision-making skills and enhance their creativity.

    A recent study by corporate fitness provider Gympass revealed that 65% of employees would engage in physical activity if their company offered employee benefits to offset part of the cost or organise related activities. However, only approximately 14% of workers are granted access to gyms, and other fitness facilities through their employer. Don’t underestimate your role in cultivating a more active workforce –– these simple initiatives are just some of the ways you can support your employees:

    • Create organisation-wide activities or competitions that promote exercise
    • Provide discounted memberships to a range of fitness gyms and studios to appeal to individual preferences
    • Offer adjustable workstations
    • Use office designs which encourage movement throughout the day e.g. placing the pantry and copier rooms at the far end of the office
    • Provide bicycle storage


  2. Nutrition

    What your workforce consumes has the power to fuel their performance. But currently, meals eaten in workplaces - including cafeterias and vending machines - are usually high in fat, sugar or caffeine, often leaving employees with a temporary burst in energy and then feeling lethargic and sleepy for the rest of the day.

    Ultimately, how one chooses to eat is an individual decision, however, organisations can create a healthy food culture and encourage commitment to a balanced diet. This can have a positive impact on their employees’ health, reduce medical costs and prevent diminishing productivity due to long term medical leave.

    To encourage a healthy food culture within your organisation, start with these steps:

    • Make nutritional information easily available to employees
    • Hold sessions and workshops to help employees understand the benefits of a balanced diet
    • Improve access to nutritious food by offering a variety of healthy meal options and snacks
    • When ordering lunch for meetings and events, choose healthier options


  3. Mental Health

    Over the past couple of years the wellness world has opened up the conversation around mental illness and helped to destigmatize mental health disorders including clinical depression, chronic stress and anxiety. Now, thanks to increased awareness of mental health risk factors, companies are being forced to re-evaluate their approach to mental health in the workplace.

    By focusing on psychological education – teaching people about emotional literacy, emotional intelligence and leadership development, organisations big and small can help their employees to better understand how the brain works. And in doing so, improve people management, boost performance and ultimately foster a more productive workforce.

    According to charity MIND, a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers. But starting a conversation about mental health doesn’t have to be difficult. Follow these tips to create a work environment that allows individuals to feel safe to be themselves, and communicate openly about their mental health:

    • Create a safe environment for employees to discuss mental health issues with their supervisors, including rules around confidentiality where required
    • Provide access to professional help where needed
    • Provide employees with easily accessible information about different mental health issues, identifying symptoms and how to get support


  4. Rest

Thanks to the mounting pressures of a busy and “always-on” lifestyle, in which hard work and hustle are valued as modern status markers, today’s workforce is more susceptible to burnout than previous generations. In a recent Gallup survey, 44% of employees in the US reported feelings of burnout at work. But even more surprisingly, even those who appeared highly engaged at work felt ready to leave their organisations due to exhaustion.

Employee burnout can significantly hurt a company’s bottom line, via a decrease in productivity and engagement, increased errors and serious safety incidents, so it makes sense for supervisors to be aware of the signs and take action to address it. Encourage employees to rest and recharge by:

  • Implementing rules around contacting employees after work hours
  • Allowing mid-day breaks
  • Implementing flexible working hours
  • Encouraging employees to fully utilise their annual leave entitlement to rest and recharge
  • Encouraging better sleep habits, including getting at least six hours of sleep per night


This article was produced by Welltodo, in collaboration with JLT.

JLT specialises in providing employee benefits consultancy, insurance placement, health and wellness services to our corporate clients around the world. Our services range from a simple life cover in a single country to designing and implementing a global employee benefits strategy. Our focus is to help our clients manage and reduce their healthcare costs, attract and retain employees and increase productivity by creating a healthier and happier workforce.

If you would like to learn more about our services, please contact Richard Roper, Managing Director, JLT Benefits Solutions (Asia).