The Role Managers Play In Shaping Employee Well-Being

Management support is crucial to the success of any workplace wellness program. As leaders, managers have the opportunity to build supportive work environments that promote employee health and well-being. Employee wellness is a smart investment for today’s managers. Research has shown the link connecting employee health behaviors with healthcare costs and the bottom line, reports Forbes.

Numerous companies are looking to reduce healthcare costs while also fostering happy, productive employees. As of 2015, more than two-thirds of U.S. employers currently offer wellness programs to help facilitate healthy workplace behaviors. While this is a great start, it’s important to realize that simply putting a wellness program into place isn’t enough. Employees need a manager’s support to create a thriving culture of wellness and sustainable behavior change.

In many cases, HR professionals spend a lot of effort convincing senior management to support wellness. In reality, it’s actually the middle managers that hold the key to changing workplace culture. Employees want their managers to give them permission and say that it’s okay to walk at lunch or attend a company yoga class.

Why Managers?

Managers have the power to create a healthier workplace. This is because they have the opportunity to lead their employees by example. Employees are much more likely to get involved in wellness activities if they see that their manager is doing so. In fact, the central part of a manager’s role is to stimulate constructive change and maintain a supportive environment.

According to the Wellness Culture Coaching Toolkit by HealthyCulture.com, managers are viewed as leaders in environmental change because:

• Managers are the instigators and organizers of change. They are responsible for follow through and quality control.

• Managers are gatekeepers. They allocate resources such as time, space and money.

• As leaders, managers work to create conditions that are conducive to success. They are accountable for the failure of the group or organization.

Managers have the opportunity and resources to serve as healthy role models for employees. By giving employees permission to keep their health and well-being a top priority, employees will be much more likely to adopt healthy behaviors at the workplace, such as staying active, making better nutritional choices and engaging in stress-relief activities.

How Can Managers Shape Employee Well-Being?

Managers can easily utilize their leadership skills to encourage and enable healthy behaviors around the office. The great thing about promoting healthy habits is that it doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. There are many simple ways to create a culture of wellness and facilitate healthy choices. Here are a few examples of some simple ways managers can help shape employee well-being:

Practice self-care. Stress is one of the biggest factors of employee health. It’s crucial that managers lead by example to help employees manage and reduce their stress levels. Supporting a healthy workforce means managers should reframe from working crazy overtime hours and emailing employees on the weekend. Managers need to take vacations, use their PTO, and take a mental health day when needed. Managers that practice self-care show employees that they should be prioritizing their well-being as well.

Stay active. Provide employees with the opportunity to stay active throughout the day. Transform your weekly sit-downs into one-on-one walking meetings. Create a walking club and participate in it. Supply employees with standing desks, or help them make their own standing desks with materials found around the office. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, and praise employees for doing the same. Let employees know that they are allowed – and encouraged – to get up from their desks every hour to stretch and move.

Show gratitude. Being thankful and expressing gratitude is one of the easiest things managers can do to boost employee well-being. By simply thanking employees for a job well done, office positivity and morale will thrive. Employees that are appreciated feel happier with their jobs. Higher office morale can lead to less stress and more productivity. Make it a habit of finding things to be grateful for – even if it’s not the best day at work. Employees will take note and start to do the same.

Offer classes. Education plays a critical role in employee wellness. Many employees are in the dark about how to eat healthily, get in shape and take care of their mental health. Managers can easily help educate employees by offering health classes. Consider bringing in a health professional once a month and hold an hour class for employees to attend. Cooking classes, yoga classes and stress management classes are all great ideas.

Make wellness convenient. Many full-time employees are hesitant to get involved in their company’s wellness initiatives because they are busy. Managers can help combat this by giving employees the opportunity to get healthy at work. Offer employees the ability to get in some exercise throughout the workday. For example, if you have a gym at your company, allow employees to exercise for 30 minutes of paid time.

Offer healthy choices. Rethink sugary, fatty snacks that are available in company vending machines and in the break room. Managers can help put an end to office cake culture that might be tempting employees to consume more calories. Replace low-nutrient snacks in the vending machines with healthy alternatives such as almonds, 100% whole grain crackers or plain Greek yogurt. Create a community fruit basket where employees can grab and add free fruit for everyone to share.

Keep wellness stress-free. Employee wellness should never be complicated or stressful. In fact, for best results, wellness initiatives should be kept simple and fun. Employees will be more inclined to get involved when they aren’t asked to complete complex, time-consuming wellness tasks. If wellness initiatives aren’t kept simple, managers will also feel stressed to keep up – and that stress will be obvious to employees.

Participate. Lastly – and possibly most importantly – managers must participate. Employees won’t listen to managers who don’t participate in wellness initiatives themselves. Managers need to lead in their company’s wellness program, participate in biometric screenings, get a flu shot, and take the annual health assessment. They should also participate in any group wellness activities or challenges such as walking clubs, group meditation, or hourly stretching. Why should employees participate in wellness invectives if their manager isn’t?

Managers can make healthy choices easy, convenient and fun for employees. By using their role to lead a healthy example, managers can help their employees create sustainable changes. If you’re a manager at your company, try implementing some of the above tips to help shape employee well-being and create a happy workforce.

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