We’ve all seen the data supporting the fact that healthy, engaged employees perform better, are more productive and stay around longer. At the same time, benefit costs are increasingly tied to stress, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Companies are fighting back with free healthy lunches, nap rooms and open vacation policies – in addition to traditional interventions such as stretch breaks, bio-metric screening and weight management programs.

However, in the manufacturing sector, wellness needs are different from what’s offered in a corporate office environment and these needs are often unique to each facility. It may be tempting to look for a new off-the-shelf wellness strategy in these environments, but the organizations that are most successful are those that concentrate on unique implementations rather than overall strategy. Let’s look at some of the trends for delivering wellness in a manufacturing environment following three mainstays of wellness strategy.

Successful wellness programs are those with strong leadership for health and wellness at all levels of the organization. In a manufacturing environment there is often a strong leadership structure already available and organizations can use this to their advantage. For instance, many organizations will already have a health and safety committee. Incorporating wellness programs into this existing framework is a great way to communicate with employees and establish consistent messaging. When the wellness message is integrated it signals strong organizational support for these initiatives.

Employee leadership is also crucial to successful wellness programs. Developing a network of wellness champions promotes the feeling of employee ownership, thereby improving participation and compliance. To encourage this, the organization can train and incentivize ambassadors to lead wellness for their immediate work groups.

When wellness leadership is strong, long-term culture change is more likely. Wellness becomes second nature and is part of the way the organization does business. Part of encouraging change is to incorporate wellness messaging into all aspects of the business. In a manufacturing environment initiatives might include:

  • Employee wellness goals as part of the new employee orientation and annual goal setting
  • Stretch breaks at tailboard or health and safety meetings
  • Recruiting and training a wellness champion for each team, crew or line
  • Charitable events that encourage and support active lifestyles for employees and their families

One of the common threads among these initiatives is the notion of flexibility: flexibility among policies, leaders and employees themselves. Flexibility can be more difficult in a shift work or production environment but the key to success is finding opportunities within the existing structure and routine.

Culture change is not an overnight process and may take years to achieve. Successful organizations start small and build wellness into the culture over time.

Successful wellness programs are accessible, both in terms of cost and convenience. The best programs include free, on-site fitness centres that are professionally supported. Although wellness encompasses more than fitness alone, it should be a key focus in manufacturing environments where physical work and repetitive tasks can lead to repetitive strain injuries.

The application of technology to wellness programs is trending in recent years and can improve accessibility. Where this might have been difficult to implement in the past, wearable fitness trackers and mobile apps are making technology-based solutions easier to implement.

A wearable might be something as simple as a pedometer but might also include a Fitbit© or heart rate monitor. When these devices are integrated into online challenges, wellness programs become more accessible to employees at work and at home.

The take home message?
Stay true to your wellness strategy, but find a unique approach to implementing wellness in your manufacturing environment. With strong leadership, an integrated approach and convenient initiatives your wellness program is sure to stand the test of time.