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Will corporate fitness win over employee's hearts?


Quality of life Observer

- Nov 15 2013

«Wellness in the workplace is central to an organization’s survival», claims Manpower’s president of corporate and government affairs, David Arkless. Although the idea seems revolutionary, it has been on the agenda for over 60 years. Wellness programs are now recognized as a progressive leverage to hire and retain talent and support employees’ engagement.


Today's corporations provide more than an attractive and efficient workplace. Corporate wellness programs are increasingly part of the package, and they span from health and prevention–safety, addictions and obesity– to fully equipped onsite fitness facilities and sports coaching. Aiming to help employees keeping fit and feeling less stressed, major brands as diverse as L’Oréal, Sanofi or Alstom offer wellness packages that include massages, beauty-related services and even sophrology.

Employee's health: a corporate challenge

The cost of poor health is a key factor that explains this trend. Figures are remarkable: according to the Health and Safety Executive –Britain’s national independent regulator for work-related health, safety and illness– the overall cost to employers of workplace accidents and work-related ill-health ranges between £3.9 and £7.8 billion a year. And over 27.6 million working days were lost in 2007/08 in Great Britain, due to work-related illnesses.


Conversely, a study by Price Waterhouse Coopers (2008) shows a 45% decrease in sickness absence further to the implementation of corporate wellness programs. Numerous other studies converge to explain the overall benefits to employers and staff alike for implementing employee wellness policies. According to the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum, such programs contribute to increased employee productivity and a stronger corporate image.

Wellness, the new hallmark of leadership?

To most employees, wellbeing initiatives are a blessing. They allow them to be more involved in their job and achieve better health at the same time; a virtuous circle. The Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers shows that for a majority of employees, wellness benefits mean harder work and better performance. 59% say their participation in a wellness program gives them more energy to be productive at work.
Implementing corporate wellness programs brings concrete benefits to organizations. "The companies that get proactive in this field are the ones that are going to attract and retain the best talent", says senior consultant Richard Easley from the Hay Group, a global HR management consultancy firm.

Talent is recognized as a powerful driver for corporate performance. When combined with engagement, it equals success. Let’s just do the math: when wellness is a priority in the workplace, employees are 8 times more likely to be engaged and 3.5 times more likely to be encouraged to be creative and innovative, according to a Manpower survey.

Employee's expectations on the rise

Change is in every aspect of employee's lives. As a result, expectations are on the rise at all levels of the organization. The digital revolution brings multiple benefits, among which the possibility of a better work-life balance, a key element in the employee wellbeing mix. Corporate health and wellness programs provide a forward-thinking response to employees demanding more flexibility and generally more control over their life.
As the war for talent is raging, even the most competitive HR packages will need upgrading. How organizations will address the issue is decisive: a report conducted on behalf of Nuffield Health* and Ashridge business school shows that implementing corporate health and wellness programs demand careful planning and adapted strategies. Some leading IT players already pave the way, with initiatives spanning from a climbing wall at Google and Twitter US to free health screenings, flu shots and an onsite pharmacy made available to Microsoft employees.

As wellness programs become more established in the workplace, we are seeing a growing number of employees appreciate—and expect—that their employer offers these benefits” explains Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group. Owen Sullivan, Manpower Inc. EVP and CEO of Right Management, considers employee wellbeing programs “…a powerful positive driver of employee engagement, productivity and performance”.

* Nuffield Health is British charity that provides a wide range of health services including private hospitals, health clinics and fitness & wellbeing centres.

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Will corporate fitness win over employee's hearts?

«Wellness in the workplace is central to an organization’s survival», claims Manpower’s president of corporate and government affairs, David Arkless. Although the idea seems revolutionary, it has been on the agenda for over 60 years. Wellness programs are now recognized as a progressive leverage to hire and retain talent and support employees’ engagement.

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