Want to Boost Workplace Wellness? Focus on Helping Others Be Well

Much like diet and exercise, volunteering has the potential to make people healthier and happier. But different than diet and exercise, volunteer programs do something more: they instill purpose.
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Helping hand for life
Helping hand for life

Workplace wellness is not just about physical health improvements and lowering insurance costs. In fact, most of the physical elements of workplace wellness programs -- like diet and exercise -- are in place because they also boost mental activity which improves innovation, problem solving, and productivity.

Simply put, companies sponsor workplace wellness because they benefit the business by reducing long-term health costs AND boosting productivity in the process.

But exercise isn't the only way to improve physical and mental health. And while workplace wellness providers are dominated by diet, exercise, and mindfulness programs, innovative companies are looking at more engaging solutions that seek to benefit not only their employees and bottom-line, but also the world.

New data shows that if people focus on benefitting the wellness of those around them, they will become more well in the process, too. As the Cleveland Clinic published:

"According to a 2006 study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, people who gave social support to others had lower blood pressure than people who didn't. Supportive interaction with others also helped people recover from coronary-related events.

The same study also found that people who gave their time to help others through community and organizational involvement had greater self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels than those who didn't."

These benefits are a big part of the reason that giving and volunteering activities are now being incorporated into workplace wellness programs.

In fact, beyond being a "nice" addition to workplace wellness, volunteering -- especially skills-based volunteering and Experteering -- has five surprising benefits of volunteering.

  • Volunteering your time makes you feel like you have more time
  • Volunteering your skills helps you develop new skills
  • Volunteering your body helps you have a healthier body.
  • Volunteering your experience helps build your experience.
  • Volunteering your love makes you feel more love.

Why do giving programs boost the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs?

Much like diet and exercise, volunteering has the potential to make people healthier and happier. But different than diet and exercise, volunteer programs do something more: they instill purpose.

As new research from Gallup shows, disengaged workers are less likely to participate in workplace wellness:

"Workers are more likely to thrive when their companies and managers address their needs in each of the five elements, rather than simply focusing on Physical Well-Being interventions..."

In other words, trying to improve workplace wellness before working on bigger issues might cause your workplace program to come up short. However, rolling out workplace wellness programs along with other initiatives that instill purpose and improve morale can increase the ROI of all your programs.

Three Easy Ways to Incorporate Giving Into Your Workplace Wellness

1. Host a Giving Event As Part of Your Wellness Program Kickoff

Kickoff your workplace wellness program with a day of volunteering or giving campaign.

2. Incentivize Wellness Participation With Giving

Use giving as an incentive. As an example, winners of health challenges can get "pay it forward" prizes, like $1,000 to donate to their charity of choice, an airplane ticket and extra week off work to go Experteering overseas, or a sponsored membership to a local venture philanthropy network like Social Venture Partners.

3. Add Skills-Based Volunteering as an Integral Element of the Program

Get executive and HR buy-in to add volunteer hours as a required element of your giving program. In addition to fostering wellness, skills-based volunteering can create a bottom line impact and help develop better leaders.

Need more proof? Here's a great infographic from Happify about the power of giving.

This post is part of an editorial series produced by The Huffington Post as part of our monthlong "Work Well" initiative, which focuses on thriving in the workplace. The goal of the series -- which will feature blogs, reported features, videos, and more -- is to present creative solutions you can use to take care of yourself as you take care of business. The effort is also part of The Huffington Post's "What's Working" solutions-oriented journalism initiative. To see all the content in the "Work Well" series, visit here.


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