Employers looking to boost engagement and productivity levels might want to take a look at revamping the more traditional wellbeing programs they have in place, one expert says.

Firms need to move beyond ho-hum and outdated wellness programs, said Laura Hamill, chief people officer at employee engagement company Limeade. “Some of the ways we’ve approached wellness we can do better,” she said Monday, speaking at the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions conference in Arlington, Va.

First of all, programs shouldn’t rely on incentives for employees to participate. Wellness — which generally involves being healthy and having a good quality of life — is something that people are “inherently interested in,” she explained. “But we do this weird thing where we pay people to have better quality of life.”

A big problem with this, she warned, is that when you pay people to do things, it’s not just an added bonus, it changes the psychology of why they think they did the thing in the first place.

“They now think they’re doing it because they’re getting paid, not because it’s something they wanted to do or because it was good for them,” Hamill added.

Instead, employers should take a comprehensive and personalized approach to wellness, and take steps to improve company culture, which in turn will create more engaged and happier employees.

When employers treat an employee like a whole person, they are acknowledging that what happens in one part of their life affects other aspects of their life, she explained. What happens at work can happen at home and vice versa. If employers are only focusing on physical health, they are not getting to the things that are underlying those physical issues. Lifestyle changes can play a major factor into physical health states — such as financial stress, she explained.

Organizations that have wellbeing at the heart will have employees that are more engaged. “High levels of engagement are absolutely related to better business results,” she said. Hamill encouraged employers to “look at your culture attributes, how much do they work for wellbeing and how much do they work against wellbeing?”

For employers looking to make wellness more embedded in company culture, she points to a number of traits. The first is the idea of “valuing people as people.” For example, it’s just as important for employees when they come back to their desks after taking a walk to have the encouragement and engagement continue.

Also important for employers is not confusing job satisfaction and engagement, she cautioned. Engagement is so much more different that just “liking a job” or “liking the benefits.” “It’s beyond that,” she says. “It’s the deep connection and feeling of purpose to work.”

Another important wellbeing trait revolves around trust: How much do workers trust organization? And to what extent does the organization trust its employees? Finally, she said, employers need to do what they say when they invest and engage workers in wellbeing.

“Companies that invest in wellbeing — and it has to be an authentic commitment — are going to have more employees who are engaged and have that deep connection to work,” Hamill said.

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