Health and wellness programs are the new raise for millennials. See how your business—and workers from any generation—could benefit from putting new policies in place.
There’s no doubt that millennials are one of the most health-focused generations in decades. Whether they’re training to run a marathon, choosing healthy food options at lunch, or making the decision to quit smoking, this generation is paying attention to positive and healthy habits.
Since millennials are beginning to see the workplace as an extension of their lives rather than something they just clock into from 9 to 5, it’s natural they would also want to make sure it’s a healthy environment. Add in factors that appeal to them, such as gamification and worthwhile incentives, and not only will the office be a better place to come to each day—it also makes the company more attractive to potential hires.
More and more successful companies are beginning to implement health and wellness programs that appeal to the Millennial Generation, as well as benefit employees of all ages. But when it comes to making sure a corporate wellness program hits all the right buttons for talented millennials, there are a few things they’re looking for. Here’s what they want to see, and what aspects will be the most attractive to them.
The Millennial’s Corporate Wellness Ideal
Employees are spending more time in the office than ever—and a large portion of these overtime office warriors are from the Millennial Generation. They’ve come to know the workplace as somewhere they’ll end up spending a lot of time, and so they want some freedom and flexibility to do more than just sit at a cubicle. Ideally, they want to stay healthy rather than sedentary, and they’d prefer to incorporate mindful living in the workplace.
This is a key area where employers can appeal to millennials—by creating a wellness program that helps them meet their goals, rather than simply putting a junk-filled vending machine in a small break room.
“Workplace wellness may be defined as any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace and to improve health outcomes,” defined an Aon Hewitt study.
“Participating companies might offer health education and coaching, medical screenings, weight management programs, on-site fitness programs, smoking cessation counseling, etc. They might also allow flex time for exercise, offer healthy options in vending machines, provide incentives for participation, and more.”
You may still find millennials who choose less activity and more screen time, but on a whole, this is the generation that trains for marathons, swaps healthy lunch recipes, and goes to spinning classes together. They find camaraderie in a positive lifestyle, and also use the competition of it to motivate themselves to go further.
Why not find that sense of community within the workplace, alongside the people with whom they spend upwards of 40 hours a week? It’s a natural fit for millennials, and they’re beginning to look for companies that also understand their health and wellness needs. They’d like to have a workplace that wants to contribute to their health in a fun and positive way.
There are few things that matter more to millennials than having a sense of community. Whether it’s a social group outside of the workplace or a posse of pals across the hallway, they prefer to do things with other people, and get a lot of joy out of shared experiences.
“A whopping 85 percent of millennials have a mobile phone, and 75 percent have at least one social media profile—demonstrating the value millennials place on having meaningful interactions with their peers,” shared Rajiv Kumar, M.D. of ShapeUp.
With more and more Millennials creating long-term friendships with their colleagues, it’s important for them to integrate parts of their active lifestyle with the social aspect of their job.
This is a good starting point for health and wellness programming.
“By leveraging these habits, social wellness activities like team-based competitions and peer-to-peer challenges can help employees build new connections among employees, strengthen existing relationships and foster solid support networks,” continued Kumar. “Further, supporting social interaction can enhance the worksite environment as a whole.”
Millennials are “three times more likely to report taking action towards improving their health, as well as rate all aspects of their performance higher” and that it makes more sense to create an overall culture of health rather than create something fleeting like an incentive program.
By showing that the workplace is committed to lasting engagement with the health of its employees, it can make a company more enjoyable to work for—especially if you’re a social millennial.
Finally, it’s wise to start by looking at what message the workplace is sending out. Dr. Carmella Sebastian, also known as “Dr. Carm” and “The Wellness Whisperer,” emphasizes knowing your company’s current culture, and asks for an assessment.
“Are the stairs available and easily accessed for use? Is every celebration accompanied by a cake or a veggie tray? What kind of snacks are in the vending machine?”
Making those realizations is a big first step towards understanding why millennials may not be as engaged. A little indulgence once in a while is a good thing, but too much can quickly turn into burnout.
Also, it’s important to ask what employees themselves want to see out of a wellness program. Try sending around an anonymous survey with a number of suggestions for things the company could be doing better to promote healthy living. You may not get one hundred percent engagement, but you should be able to form a good sense of what employees want and what they’d like to be done better.
Dr. Carm added that you could even notice patterns in the data—such as a percentage of employees that smoke, or a percentage that are obese—that could help you aim for “low-hanging fruit” with your wellness program (like incentives to help quit smoking, or encouragement to hold walking meetings or take the stairs).
Another idea is to create an employee “wellness champion” who can further the culture of health.
“Workplaces with strong cultures of health typically leverage grassroots approaches that empower local employees to serve as onsite ‘wellness champions’,” Kumar shared through The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism. “They nurture and grow the culture through ongoing communication, technology and environmental changes. They also emphasize work-life balance that’s critical to Millennials—with three out of four saying that it drives their career choices.” So if you’re having difficulty getting a corporate wellness program off the ground, try looking for an employee who can spearhead your efforts from within.
Keep Your Company Competitive With a Wellness Culture
With today’s current competitive job climate, companies are looking for any edge they can get when it comes to attracting talented millennials. For this purpose, it’s hard to underestimate the value of a wellness program—it shows the company cares about the long-term health of its employees, and it allows social-driven millennials to bond with their peers, earn incentives, and engage in friendly competition. Implementing a culture of health in the workplace can be a win-win for millennial employees and employers alike.
Derek Kren is VP of Sales at MediKeeper, Inc., a leading provider of SaaS-based health and wellness portals. Prior to joining MediKeeper in 2013, Mr. Kren served as RVP and Vice President of Operations at Summit Health, Inc. and was instrumental in the company’s growth from startup to one of the nation’s largest providers of population health management services. A former Biomedical Sciences Corps officer with the U.S. Air Force, Mr. Kren holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology and has extensive operational, business development, and sales experience in the healthcare industry.