As the world of work continues to evolve and more policies are put in place that focus on employee well-being rather than bottom line productivity, wellness and happiness are two words that come up a lot. They are similar in practice, but the way companies approach them can be tremendously different.

In a recent HBR article, Emma Seppala discusses this phenomenon and outlines how focusing on wellness in a quantitative way can be counterproductive when it comes to producing the desired results. I share my take below.

Crunching the numbers is missing the point. The desire to find out if what you’re doing is working is certainly understandable, but in the case of wellness, it seems a bit misguided. While the goal is to have healthier employees, the real prize is to be more productive as a whole, and to do better work. Making employees report on their fulfillment or participation in wellness programs could cause them more stress and take up more time than they are worth.

The onus must be on the employee… Even though wellness programs are a good idea, and finding ways to be healthier in our day-to-day lives is always smart, we as leaders can’t make our employees change their lifestyle in one way or another. It’s up to each individual employee to determine how and why they want to be healthier.

…But you must put the right policies in place. It’s up to you to offer that support system on behalf of the organization. You can’t give your employees a mandate to be healthy. You can make it easier by offering them workout and nutrition plans, more flexible scheduling, or whatever works for your organization.

If you want to help foster wellness in your employees, encourage a positive atmosphere. Spend a little bit of time talking about both mental and physical health and why they are so important. The best way to encourage healthy employees is to show them you care and that you can make it easy for them to take care of themselves without sacrificing attention to their work.

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