Professional Wellness: Better Health Through Better Living

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June 9, 2022

Chris Mazzon

Chris Mazzon VP, Association Partnerships

Each June, Professional Wellness Month sheds light on the workplace’s role in creating a healthy environment for employees to thrive in, while also providing employers with helpful tips and resources for maintaining productive, engaged employees. As adults spend the majority of their active years at work, it should come as no surprise that there is a correlation between work and an individual’s overall wellbeing. Your mindset about the work that you do, the people you work with, and your ability to weather the ups and downs of your professional life are all factors that impact your wellbeing.

For decades, research has confirmed that eating well, exercising, and focusing on the other integral parts of our lives, such as our financial, spiritual and emotional health makes us feel good about ourselves and makes us more efficient at work. When employees live healthier lives, their productivity increases their worth in the marketplace and adds value to their company. Thus, organizations that proactively invest in their employees benefit from a more engaged workforce. To start integrating wellness into your workplace culture, take these pieces of advice from some experts in the industry. 

FITNESS & NUTRITION

While many companies might focus more on including physical activities in their corporate wellness program, they often don't prioritize the other piece of the equation – nutrition. According to the Institute for Health Metrics, poor nutrition has nearly three times the impact on health as low fitness and can contribute to higher levels of depression and anxiety in individuals.

Many of us base our nutritional decisions on convenience or financial restrictions. How many times have you chosen to eat fast food out of convenience, rather than pre-packing a healthy lunch? Rather than focusing on what’s easiest, nutritionists, and dieticians often recommend their clients to approach food with intent. An emerging trend in health and fitness, intentional eating can be defined as purposefully choosing foods that nourish and energize your body. But eating with intention requires thought and focus, and it can be hard when there are so many life stresses competing for that mental energy.

Because we are easily influenced, particularly by those we spend large amounts of time with, employers have a unique advantage when it comes to setting healthy examples for nutritious diets and food options. In addition to providing employees with benefits and healthcare plans, employers can also include nutritional services to encourage healthier habits. According to Dieticians of Canada (DC), nutrition services are critical to include in any benefits or healthcare plan. Not only do good nutritional habits help improve an individual’s wellness overall, but they also help employers manage healthcare costs by reducing the major health risks that can lead to employee absences or regular prescription drug use. For instance, a balanced diet can:

  • Lower the risk for, and help manage type 2 diabetes
  • Improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Control various digestive issues
  • Improve allergy symptoms

 FINANCIAL WELLBEING

Regardless of your profession, money likely plays a major role in your day-to-day life. While everyone's situation is different, financial wellness is the ability to meet your current obligations, and make choices that let you enjoy life and feel secure about your financial future. Whether it’s saving up for a trip or buying a new home, feeling confident about your finances can help lower unnecessary stress levels and improve overall wellness.

According to the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors' (NAPFA) 2019 Consumer Survey, Americans are overwhelmingly stressed about their current and future finances, with 74% of survey participants wishing they could get a financial planning “do-over,” to set up a better financial situation. The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with high inflation rates and other economic concerns, have contributed to many Americans feeling as though they have no control over their financial future. Working with a fee-only financial advisor, or wealth manager may be beneficial for individuals looking to meet their long-term financial goals.

MENTAL HEALTH

Today, mental health is gradually being recognized as a foundational requirement for maintaining an effective workforce. Ten years ago, however, many companies’ approach to mental health looked completely different. Regarded as deeply personal, private matters that should be addressed and handled “on our own time,” rather than at the workplace, psychological wellness was not typically factored in as a major contributor to a workforce’s productivity.

Despite this, younger generations have emerged as major players in normalizing mental health as an important topic of discussion and placing equal value on mental health as an integral part of our overall wellbeing. If we’ve learned anything throughout our lives, it's that distress and trauma can be an inevitable part of the human experience. If ignored or deprioritized, however, emotional distress can lead to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Burnout
  • Substance Abuse
  • Decreased Productivity
  • Employee Turnover

While there is no quick fix for improving the mental state of a workforce, there are foundational components to any wellness initiative that will set an organization up for success. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), wellness programs should be developed with your employees in mind, in addition to being personalized, readily adaptable and flexible enough to evolve in response to the changing global environment. Ideally, organizations should conduct surveys on at least an annual basis to obtain honest information and feedback about their employees' wellbeing and the types of benefits and resources they value most. After gathering employee feedback, employers can then develop a "menu" of resources to offer so each employee can select the programs that will best meet their needs.

Progress will entail acknowledging and embracing the importance of employees’ holistic wellbeing and seamlessly integrating appropriate supports throughout their workplace experience. This means shifting the traditional physical health focus to encompass social, intellectual, environmental, financial, and emotional health as well. – Dr. Debra Kissen, Co-Chair, ADAA Public Education Committee

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WORK-LIFE BALANCE

Gone are the days when human resources' (HR) primary functions were hiring, policing, and paper pushing. In today's dynamic workplace, HR professionals are expected to add value to their organizations. Not only do they help solve key organizational challenges, but HR professionals are critical in facilitating mergers and acquisitions, improving productivity and quality of work, and improving the ability of an organization to bring new products to market. Moreover, HR departments play an important role in providing employees and company leaders with tools to ensure they are focusing on their wellbeing. Ultimately, this improves a company's return on its greatest asset – people.

According to the National Human Resources Association (NHRA), true employee wellness needs to be built into an organization’s culture. While the long-term change won't happen overnight, companies can take small steps to build a culture that prioritizes their employees’ wellness by:

  • Agreeing not to send emails after-hours or on weekends
  • Being conscientious about healthier lunch options in the office
  • Ensuring team members set aside time to take their PTO and respecting the boundaries of time-off requests
  • Encouraging healthier team-building activities like walking challenges or mid-day meditation workshops

We know that by reducing stress, burnout, and anxiety, we create an environment of productivity and wellbeing that not only builds a place where people want to work but also one that produces business results.

- Giulia Molisani, President, National Human Resources Association (NHRA)

EMOTIONAL & SPIRITUAL WELLNESS

Western medicine does not always address the many ways in which spiritual and emotional health impact overall wellness. Spirituality is an expansive process of living each day, at work and at home, in alignment with a sense of purpose and deeply held values. Instead of compartmentalizing each area of life, we can benefit from taking a holistic approach that recognizes the benefits and power of the mind-body connection.

Following this ideology, naturopathic doctors approach wellness with a focus on how to address the root cause of any imbalance or disease, while using the least invasive and most natural methods possible. Because naturopathic medicine places a huge emphasis on the process of healing from within, the practice can involve calling on elements of spirituality to heal emotional wounds, and achieve the healthiest version of ourselves. There are many spiritual principles, practices, and ideas that physicians can call upon when working with patients to further the emotional and physical recovery processes, according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). These principles and practices can include:

  • Meditation teaches patients the importance of discipline, being present, and healing the mind.
  • Spiritual practices of gratitude, self-acceptance, and compassion can be incorporated into daily behaviors and daily life to change a patient's overall outlook and perspectives.
  • Discussions about letting go of ego and judgment can bring awareness and understanding of how we resist and defend against change.

FINAL THOUGHTS

At its core, Professional Wellness Month is all about shedding light on the factors that impact the happiness, health, and wellbeing of your workforce. Organizations will always get more out of their employees when they take their health and wellness seriously. Investing in an employee’s wellness will not only increase the productivity and value proposition of your workforce but will create a company culture to be proud of. If your organization doesn’t have an employee wellness program already, it might be time to look into developing one.

 

About DC:
Dietitians of Canada (DC) is a professional association with strong roots connecting more than 5,000 unique and diverse members across all areas of food, nutrition and health. DC proudly represents dietitians, fostering growth and passion in the profession through advocacy, engagement, and professional development. After more than 80 years, DC remains an innovative organization with strong member leadership and common purpose: to advance the health of Canadians through food and nutrition.

About NAPFA:
Since 1983, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) has provided fee‐only financial advisors across the country with some of the highest standards possible for professional competency, comprehensive financial planning, and fee‐only compensation. With more than 4,400 members across the country, NAPFA is the leading professional association in the United States dedicated to the advancement of fee‐only financial planning.

About ADAA:
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research. ADAA provides education about the disorders and helps people find treatment, resources, and support.

About NHRA:
The National Human Resources Association (NHRA), established in 1951, is focused on advancing the individual career development, planning and leadership of human resource (HR) professionals. Through professional networking programs and development services offered across the country, we strive to support individuals throughout their career life cycle. From intern to executive, Human Resources leads the way for change in today’s businesses.

About AANP:
Founded in 1985, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the national professional society representing licensed naturopathic doctors, naturopathic medicine students, and other healthcare professionals allied with the naturopathic profession. The AANP's physician members are graduates of naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Together, AANP works to advance the unique and distinct philosophy of naturopathic medicine, to expand access to naturopathic doctors, and to help its members build successful practices.

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