Addressing the well-being of your employees involves more than just healing and maintaining the physical body. While a virtual yoga class or full-service nutritious snack bar might help promote a few healthy habits, improving overall wellness requires a strategically planned framework.
That’s why over half of all U.S. organizations offer corporate well-being programs for their employees.
Unfortunately, many traditional wellness programs fall short of achieving organizational goals by focusing too much on physical health, and their rigid structures often ignore the unique wellness needs of employees.
On the other hand, holistic strategies take a multifaceted approach to wellness, going beyond exercise and nutrition to provide resources and activities that employees can take advantage of at their own discretion. Not only do holistic wellness programs consider all dimensions of health, but they also meet employees wherever they are on their individual wellness journeys.
In this guide, we’ll cover all there is to know about holistic wellness in the workplace, from the six essential pillars to strategies employers can use to effectively empower their employees.
What Is a Holistic Wellness Program?
A holistic wellness program offers organizations a way to promote wellness in all aspects of their employees’ lives. These initiatives recognize how different dimensions of health are interconnected, and they aim to address each one simultaneously with various activities, techniques, and resources.
But what are these essential elements for overall health?
The 6 Pillars of Holistic Wellness
When most people think of achieving optimal health, they might imagine eating right or being physically active. However, this neglects another big facet of well-being—mental and emotional health.
Each person needs to tend to their mind as well as their body to minimize stress, pain, and anxiety. But still, this only scratches the surface of holistic wellness.
To understand the full picture, here are the six essential pillars everyone must maintain:
1. Physical Wellness
Physical health is typically the first thing people think of in regard to wellness, and it’s also one of the most common areas companies prioritize in their wellness programs.
Outside of regular exercise, organizations will often promote healthy habits around hygiene and sleep. For instance, the Sleep Foundation recommends the average adult get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. By encouraging employees to do the same, organizations stand to empower their workforce to lead healthier lifestyles while also boosting productivity.
2. Mental Health and Emotional Wellness
Nearly 60% of employees report facing mental health challenges on a daily basis, according to McKinsey.
By not addressing these issues in the workplace, employers can leave their organizations vulnerable to a number of risks, from low morale to decreased performance. In fact, the same McKinsey report found that employees who face mental and emotional health difficulties are twice as likely to report low engagement at work and four times more likely to leave altogether.
3. Occupational Wellness
Employee experience also plays a critical role in workplace well-being. For instance, employees dealing with mental health challenges at work are three times more likely to experience toxic behavior and report low job satisfaction, per McKinsey.
Fortunately, this is one area where employers have direct control. One effective way to combat workplace maladies is to look beyond day-to-day deadlines and focus on improving career satisfaction over the long term.
4. Social Wellness
Despite its vital importance, social wellness is an often overlooked piece of the holistic health puzzle.
Employees have their own private social lives outside of work, but organizations still have a responsibility to foster a welcoming, social environment in the workplace. Not only does this improve collaboration and company culture, but it can also boost retention rates.
As Harvard Business Review reported, those who have a strong sense of community at work are nearly 60% more likely to thrive and stay at their current jobs.
5. Financial Wellness
Finances can be a huge anxiety trigger for workers, with PwC reporting that it’s the No. 1 cause of stress for 57% of employees. And this worry bleeds into other aspects of their lives, with over half of respondents reporting a cascading negative impact on their sleep habits, mental health, and self-esteem.
While economic pressures often make it impractical to increase compensation across the board, employee benefits like financial coaching, employee savings programs, and student loan assistance can help to ease financial stress.
The final pillar of holistic wellness is perhaps one of the most critical in improving workplace well-being.
When employees have their heads buried in work, it’s easy for them to forget that every action has an effect on other people and the world at large. Reminding them of their company’s larger mission can help drive this home, but directly giving back to the community is one of the best ways to instill a sense of purpose and demonstrate organizational values. This can go a long way in improving the mental health and well-being of workers.
The positive impacts of holistic wellness extend beyond employees. Organizations also receive a variety of benefits, from increasing engagement to collecting valuable user data to back decision-making and further company goals.
Why Take a Holistic Approach to Workplace Wellness?
Although employees exhibit different symptoms than unhealthy businesses, taking a holistic approach to wellness can bring balance and healing to both. How does this work?
When employees are affected by health issues—such as mental health illnesses, chronic pain, or even just general stress—it can impact their performance and participation at work. Holistic wellness programs can help address these diverse workplace problems with accessible resources that:
- Improve workplace culture: Corporate wellness programs often include fun and personalized activities that can foster team building and boost employee satisfaction by 67%.
- Increase engagement: Prioritizing holistic healing and well-being in the workplace can cut absenteeism by 50%.
- Enhance productivity: Organizations report a 66% increase in productivity after implementing holistic wellness programs that prioritize unique wellness needs.
So how can companies leverage holistic wellness in the workplace to empower their employees?
What Does Holistic Health and Well-Being Look Like in the Workplace?
Holistic wellness initiatives provide organizations with a comprehensive action plan for improving the physical, mental, financial, social, occupational, and purpose-driven well-being of their employees.
Rather than adopting a rigid, cookie-cutter program that only narrows in on one area of wellness, this holistic approach takes into account all aspects of an employee’s life to achieve dramatic results.
Let’s take a look at a few different ways employers can incorporate holistic wellness into their daily operations:
Promote Physical Activity
To start, employers can incorporate programs like exercise challenges, games, or mid-day walk breaks to boost physical activity among workers. And with the multifaceted approach of holistic wellness programs, employers can also use these physical initiatives to target other areas of well-being as well.
Numerous studies have shown exercise to reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety, and stepping away from the desk can drastically improve mental clarity and focus. In addition, getting your team together for a bit of leisure time can also build connections that translate to better collaboration, improving social wellness and belonging.
Create a Safe Environment
Organizations that prioritize employee well-being will often offer safe spaces for open and honest discussions. While it isn’t a substitute for therapy, it’s more than an open-door policy.
As part of creating a safe environment, many companies will require leadership to undergo mindfulness and emotional wellness training. That way, they’re equipped to help employees prosper, no matter their situation.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Another excellent way to incorporate holistic wellness at work is to actively practice mindfulness and meditation. In fact, a 2022 study found meditation to be as effective as medicine at reducing anxiety.
Whether it’s an unstructured time for reflection and relaxation or a guided class that focuses on the mind and body, these programs can help employees lower stress levels and better manage mental health issues like anxiety at work.
Foster Social Bonds
While many companies have moved to remote and hybrid models in recent years, the social component of work has never gone away.
To help facilitate social interactions and improve the work community, employers can encourage more interactions (either in-person or over video call). Having a physical break room with games and healthy snacks is a great way to promote face-to-face socialization, but even an open chat room can help foster connections among workers.
Set Clear Career Paths
Without any direction in their careers, employees can often become unmotivated or disillusioned at work. By setting realistic objectives and establishing clear outlines for advancement opportunities, companies can help their employees achieve their goals.
Promoting employees will not only allow them to explore their potential and grow professionally, but it can also be an organizational advantage by improving loyalty and retaining long-term knowledge, experience, and expertise in an otherwise competitive job market.
Offer Financial Workshops
Not every employer has the luxury of increasing compensation at whim, but extra cash doesn’t solve every issue in the first place.
Instead, many companies are reviewing and updating their financial benefits packages to be more attractive and equitable to diverse employee populations. At the same time, other organizations are offering workshops that aim at improving employee financial literacy and reducing financial anxiety.
Make a Difference in the Community
Last but not least, companies are realizing that a sense of purpose is essential to maintain a healthy, happy workforce. While not every person derives this from their job, helping others is an almost universal way to find meaning in life.
To help, organizations can set up outreach and volunteer opportunities in their local communities. Employees who participate will not only get the chance to give back to others, but they’ll also engage in valuable team-building activities that improve performance and overall well-being.
Empower Employee Growth and Engagement
Happy, healthy employees are good for business. Choosing the right path to get there is a crucial part of the process, but it can sometimes be confusing. At WellRight, we’re here to help.
Want to learn more about how holistic wellness can alleviate employee stress and empower healthy lifestyles?
Read our free ebook, “8 Ways to Foster Employee Growth and Engagement With Your Wellness Program,” to find out how to get the most out of workplace wellness initiatives.