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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

The Surprising Benefits of Making ‘Wellness’ a Cornerstone of Company Culture

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"Wellness" is one of those terms you've heard thrown around a lot. It's mentioned at least 17 times on your box of granola bars, it's plastered across magazine covers, and it's even made its way into your employee handbook.

But beyond being a marketing term—or something that's only relevant for the two weeks immediately following January 1—there's real value to considering wellness at work. After all, you spend a huge percentage of your life in a work-related setting; ignoring the most foundational elements of your physical and mental health 40+ hours a week just isn't an option.

Attention to wellness on a daily, small scale can lead to major long-term rewards—and those rewards stretch farther than you might think.

Wellness + Work = Win-Win

There are many reasons why wellness should be a part of any long-term career path: First and foremost, you're better able to excel when you're feeling 100%. A focus on wellness in the workplace has also been shown to reduce stress levels (which, let's face it, makes everyone from your boss to your significant other a happy camper).

Wellness, explains Katherine Lanouette, a Senior Wellness Program Specialist at Caesars Entertainment, is about more than just hitting the gym a few times a week. Rather, it's a general state of wellbeing, including how you react to your environment and how it impacts your quality of life. This encompasses everything from squeezing healthy eating and fitness into your routine to "feel-good" activities like community involvement to mental health and overall balance.

In recent years, companies like Caesars have made concerted efforts to take a more active role in employee wellness instead of simply offering passive benefits. The company's Wellness Rewards program, for example, rewards employees monetarily for health progress like low blood pressure levels or improved BMI. Caesars also employs contracted WellNurses and Lifestyle WellCoaches at each of its properties to oversee onsite clinics; these professionals are around for employees who may have health-related questions, want to reach specific wellness goals, or need help navigating the rewards program.

This approach to wellness not only helps employees prosper, it's also a useful tool for companies who want to increase productivity and improve retention rates. In other words, it's a win-win.

This is where Katherine comes in. Her job is to build and support programs that encourage a healthy workforce on a strategic level. She oversees a wide swath of the company's wellness initiatives, ensuring that the programs in place are having their intended positive impact. On any given day, Katherine may be involved in planning the company's annual Wellness Summit or working with onsite vendors to execute programs across Caesars' vast network of properties.

She's also seen some unexpected benefits as a result of working in the world of wellness—such as its impact on teamwork.

Wellness and Team-Building

“Wellness has always been a part of my life," says Katherine. “I ran all throughout middle school, high school, and some in college. In the past 15 years, I've been really into community-style running. Wellness has always been my sounding board, and it's taught me a lot of valuable lessons about working with a team, encouraging others, and other important aspects of community."

True to this statement, Katherine stresses that workplace wellness is indeed a team effort. Ultimately, both employee participation and partner programs are key parts of the recipe for successful campaigns.

Katherine relays an example of the real-world impact of one such campaign: A program last fall that married two of the company's cultural cornerstones, wellness and philanthropy. In the program, one Caesars property set a goal to collectively walk the distance to (symbolically) reach the North Pole and back—a total of about 5,500 miles. The primary purpose of the initiative was to promote wellness through walking, and charitable funds raised for the event were donated to Toys for Tots. When all was said and done, more than 300 people participated in the program, and they obliterated the initial goal by tenfold, hitting nearly 55,000 miles.

The campaign, says Katherine, "struck a chord" with employees. It's a prime example of how companies can combine multiple elements of wellness—personal fitness, goal-setting, and the broader spectrum of public health—to boost morale and support volunteerism.

Because of her work, Katherine's been inspired to get involved with her own charitable endeavors. Through Team in Training, she's participated in wellness-driven fundraising efforts like Man of the Year and the Nike Women's Half Marathon. These events, she says, help her stay well-rounded and bring new perspective to her role—and she often participates in them with co-workers by her side.

Though wellness journeys can be pretty daunting, they're more easily attainable with the support of co-workers, friends, and an organization that's got your back. She shares one of her favorite quotes: When “I" is replaced with “we," even illness becomes wellness.

That's a healthy attitude, if you ask us.