Financial Wellness: Every organization has employees who would benefit from financial education programs. Offering numerous financial wellness programs takes the stigma out of needing help with finances and financial literacy.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Marcy Morrison.

Marcy Morrison is a certified personal trainer, holistic health coach, weight loss program specialist, and corporate wellness specialist. Marcy is the founder of Healthy Fit Family, LLC and the Worksite Wellness Membership, a wellness membership that helps small to midsized businesses start and manage wellness programs.

Marcy has been in the health and wellness industry for over 20 years. She owned a fitness and wellness center in South Florida for 12 years where she helped over 500 clients with health and fitness and weight management. In 2011, Marcy switched her focus to working with corporations on worksite wellness and population health programs to expand her impact and to work with people who might otherwise not have access to health and wellness coaching. She has worked with insurance companies, fortune 500 companies, municipalities, and small and mid-sized businesses starting and managing ACA-compliant, impactful wellness programs.

Her passion for wellness and well-being has made her a sought-after worksite wellness consultant. Marcy has had the pleasure of working with companies that collectively have over 150,000 employees. She continues to engage with new corporations, both large and small, all over the United States and is planning to expand her business globally in 2022.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

There are numerous reasons I changed my focus to worksite wellness. First, when I had my son, I realized that working 60–70 hours a week in my fitness center was no longer possible.

Then, I had a series of tragic events and lost my mother, father, and sister in a very short period of time. After feeling such devastation and overwhelming grief, I knew I wanted to help more people manage their health. I was also determined to impact those who might otherwise be unable to afford the services of a health coach, personal trainer, or weight loss specialist. Having a greater impact became my mission and I am still on that mission. Too many people die from preventable diseases that can be managed with lifestyle changes and I want to shout that from the mountaintops and help as many people as I can. Worksite wellness allows me to reach hundreds of thousands of people and their income is not a factor and that absolutely lights me up!

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

I think the COVID 19 pandemic made employers and employees revisit almost everything about how they do business, and how they manage employees’ health — both mental and physical. When you look at the data, the people who had the most severe issues with COVID were those with underlying conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, or metabolic syndrome. If that doesn’t tell us that we need to make sure wellness programs are available to all employees and their family members, I don’t know what will. Combine that with the mental health issues that came with the pandemic and you have a perfect storm for both physical and mental health conditions that brought many businesses to the tipping point with employee wellness.

I am a consultant, so I have worked with many different industries and I would say they each have their own unique take on “wellness”. To me, wellness is our overall understanding that our health and well-being are a culmination of the choices that we make every day with food, lifestyle, and self-care.

I would say that my company measures wellness by making sure that every employee has access to impactful, engaging programs that serve the population of that specific organization. When we can get targeted intervention and health education programs to those who need them, and those people have positive changes to their health, the wellness program is working. When people are enthusiastically engaging in the wellness programs that are offered, you can create a culture of wellness and that is a game-changer.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

I don’t think there is just one any way to really quantify the impact of health, wellness and well-being programs for companies and their employees. When employees find a wellness program that meets them where they are in their health journey, it can make an enormous difference in their lives. Companies want healthy, productive, happy employees. Employees want to know that the company they work for cares about them. A wellness program that can engage all employees with a variety of wellness offerings can be life-changing for everyone involved. I’ve seen people become almost evangelical about wellness after turning their health around and discovering what optimal health feels like. That can be very contagious and can help create that culture of wellness we all want to see.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

This is such a great question and I think so many businesses struggle with this. In my opinion, wellness and well-being programs have gotten very expensive and very impersonal. Large wellness platforms have sprung up everywhere and they try to do the job but many times fall short of any tangible ROI. In my experience, a wellness program is the most powerful and impactful when it has numerous wellness champions helping to run it from within, while working with wellness professionals to implement programs that the employees actually want to see. I see many companies try to go too big too fast by going directly into outcomes-based or health-contingent wellness programs. This can be costly, time consuming and off-putting to some of the employees. For example, BMI is a benchmark for most worksite wellness programs, however, it can be a barrier to entry for many employees. People who are overweight know they are overweight and weighing them at a health fair can be embarrassing. If you are trying to create a culture of health and wellness, create an inviting and engaging wellness program that offers something for everyone. We know people are stressed, we know people are confused about all of the different dietary theories, we know people need to move more throughout the day — offer programs that address these issues to start. Then, make sure to ask the employees what specific wellness programs they want to see through employee interest surveys. Spending big dollars before you know what your employees want is not the best way to have a successful wellness program.

Another thing to think about is that if the C-Suite doesn’t participate in any of the wellness programs, employees will be less likely to do so. We hear that all the time but it is still a component missing in so many wellness programs. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll leave it at that.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

I do think that employees are searching for companies that have wellness and wellbeing programs in place. I think it is as much about knowing that the employer truly cares about the employees as it is about the perks of wellness programs. I encourage the companies that I work with to clearly define and showcase their worksite wellness programs on the careers page on their website. It so often seems like an afterthought but it should be a recruitment tool. I also believe that all new hire information packets should include detailed information about the wellness program, how and where to find information about what is offered, and an invitation to become a wellness champion. Getting employees invested in creating the wellness program is the #1 way to create a culture of wellness.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

I think any time a company invests in the health and well-being of their employees, it comes back to them in many ways. If you are not prioritizing the wellness of your most important assets, your people, then you cannot expect them to be performing optimally. When an organization can make health and well-being part of the overall culture, employees rise to that culture. When they feel cared for and have the programs in place to help them, productivity increases, healthy habits improve, the sense of community strengthens and the list goes on and on.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

When I started the Worksite Wellness Membership, I did so to help companies that didn’t have large budgets start and manage wellness programs. A crucial component of that membership is training people within the organization to become wellness and well-being champions. Every organization is different and each one has specific needs for employee wellness. Creating a cohesive team within the organization and training that team to become the thought leaders for that company’s wellness program is a game-changer. The wellness teams help shape the program and in turn, the employees have the wellness programs that work for them. It’s a win-win!

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

As a wellness consultant, I believe the best way for a company to get well is to start a wellness program. And, the best way to get organizations started with wellness programs is to create a business plan for the program and start with a great team of wellness champions.

I am very specific about the wellness champion teams that I help to create because I want people with every level of health and wellness to be on the team. It is important that employees can see someone on the wellness champions team who looks and feels like they do. One of the best wellness champions I ever worked with started out wanting to lose 100 pounds. When others who didn’t feel “healthy and fit” saw the programs that she was participating in, they felt that they could do it, too, and she became an incredible motivator. (By the way, she lost 100 pounds and has kept it off for over 8 years).

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

I am very optimistic about the future of workplace wellness. I think after the past few years, seeing the devastating effect that poor health had on people who got COVID, we know that we have to do something to address the issue of health and wellness. In the US where most of us get our health insurance from our employers, it is easy to track the health of an employee population. Aggregate data can tell us what the employees need as far as health and wellness programs and I believe that employers are willing to invest the time and resources required to help their employees. We have to do something to change the trajectory of disease in our world. I know wellness programs can help — I’ve seen it time and time again.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

Many of the clients that I work with are small to mid-sized businesses or public sector so moving to a 4 day work week or offering unlimited PTO is simply not possible. We have to create programs for employees that meet their specific needs while understanding the needs of the employer as well.

  • Mental Wellness: We have a series called Mindful Mondays that give employees many resources for stress management, mindfulness and meditation. We also make information about behavioral health benefits easy to find by posting links in numerous locations, both online and in print in common areas so all employees can access these important resources without having to go to HR.
  • Physical Wellness: Discounts on gym memberships are great, but bringing yoga and fitness professionals onsite has a higher impact on many of the employees who don’t regularly visit a gym. Online or on demand fitness classes are also great for organizations with numerous locations and shifts.
  • Financial Wellness: Every organization has employees who would benefit from financial education programs. Offering numerous financial wellness programs takes the stigma out of needing help with finances and financial literacy.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.