February 8, 2013

How Are You? Really.

How Are You? Really.

When I attend industry conferences, I hear a lot of discussion about the different ways that companies are engaging with their employees, from social media groups to flexible work schedules. One of the biggest topics under the umbrella of engagement is employee wellness.

There is a good reason for this: employees’ health and well-being is a bottom line issue both for them and for their companies. 

Employee wellness is about more than just health. It is an indicator of an employee’s overall well-being inside the company and how that well-being translates into productivity and profitability. It includes not only how employees feel, but the correlations between how they feel and (a) their job performance and (b) the very real and growing cost of helping them to be healthy.

Today, most companies are doing “more with less” and have been since the financial crisis of 2008.  “More with less” can lead to additional stress on employees, less time for physical activity, and less time with family and friends.  Unfortunately, we can’t change this.  Instead, we are searching for other ways to alleviate the pressure and help our employees become more resilient.  By focusing some of our efforts on all-around well-being, “more with less” doesn’t take such a toll. 

Early last year, Marcum made wellness a priority in our Firm. From weaning employees off candy jars and ice cream socials to introducing pedometers and healthy snacks – we got off to a good start. We also instituted biometric health screenings in all Marcum offices. This data will be used to determine what types of programs we can offer to help employees and partners address health concerns like hypertension, high cholesterol or others.

But wellness isn’t just about exercise and vegetables – it’s about feeling your best and being your best in all areas of your life. Wellness to me is feeling good when I’m at work, but feeling even better when I get home to my family.   It’s having the energy to do the things I want. 

If done correctly, wellness can be a chain reaction. Physical well-being makes you feel better all around.  When you feel better, you’re more productive, allowing you to head home with a sense of accomplishment and a clear mind.

We are in the second year of our wellness initiative at Marcum.  While working to change the mentality of our employees and the organization as a whole, we are also working to create a culture of wellness – not only to increase performance and productivity at work, but also for the time spent out of the office.  

We just started our first walking program, complete with an intracompany contest under the theme How Many Steps Will You Take? Individual offices are also encouraged to organize their own healthy activities.  Our Melville, Long Island office, for example, holds the annual Marcum Workplace Challenge, a charitable foot race at Jones Beach that attracts over 7000 runners and walkers from over 200 companies! In addition to the race itself, the event also serves as a massive annual summer picnic for participating organizations, many of which pitch tents and cater food. It is a highlight of the summer for Marcum and for me personally, and represents the essence of employee wellness, combining physical activity with good old fashioned fun and team spirit. There’s no better way to build morale.

These initiatives and others are incrementally changing the way we look at wellness. We are focusing on the spectrum of factors that contribute to wellness – physical, psychological and emotional. The company is doing its part, but we want our employees and partners to do their parts, too. Wellness is a shared responsibility, not just in the office but at home with family and friends.

Wellness is important for its own sake. But at the same time we must acknowledge the elephant in the room – the enormous increases in health insurance premiums that are driving up the cost of providing good employee benefits, year after year.  Both companies and employees bear this cost.  So, as managers, we ask ourselves – what can we do not only to minimize the increase in insurance premiums, but to benefit everyone’s health?  I think (and hope) we’ve found the answer in wellness.

Molly Simpson contributed to this posting.