Support for total wellbeing: Total wellbeing includes nutrition, education, and mental health, and means caring for the whole person and nurturing a health-minded culture. Wellbeing services such as coaching and educational programs promote long-term health and wellness, and support physical, social, and emotional health. Our health coaches provide guidance beyond the physical aspects of good health, addressing emotional, financial, and social wellbeing to help participants reach their goals. Participants can connect with their coaches in multiple ways at the same time, including digitally, telephonically, and on-site.
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 Sean McManamy.
Since 2019, Sean McManamy has served as President and CEO of HealthFitness, a leading provider of comprehensive fitness solutions for companies and organizations that engages and connects people on-site and online, to create a strong community of health. He joined HealthFitness in 2010, serving first as Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and then Senior Vice President of Strategy and Product. McManamy has held various senior leadership positions within Trustmark, the parent company of HealthFitness, most recently as President of Trustmark Small Business Benefits. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marquette University.
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.
Since my quest for a strong work-life balance continues to develop throughout my career, I cannot point to a single experience that has changed my relationship with work. That said, starting and growing a family helped to change my perspective on work in a couple of ways. When I went from being financially responsible for just myself in my 20s to being responsible for others, it created more pressure to succeed and advance. However, that has been counterbalanced by my desire to be present — both physically and emotionally — for my family. This means limiting travel when possible, getting home from the office at a reasonable hour, and — most importantly — leaving work stress at the office. I will always be working to strike that balance.
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?
At HealthFitness, we define wellness to meet the diverse needs of our employees. This includes providing employees with physical, mental, and financial benefits and resources that support them in gaining knowledge, and setting and achieving their goals. We measure employee benefit satisfaction through surveys, and any assessment of where they are in their journey within any aspect of wellness is personal and confidential to each individual.
We use employee engagement as a factor to measure overall wellness. Managers are trained to hold regular engagement discussions, creating a culture of care and belonging, and allowing for an open door in the event an employee has a need to connect with one of our benefits or confidential resources for support. We also conduct company-wide surveys to measure overall engagement, and request feedback on what the company can do to enhance their wellbeing. Based on the results, we take action and make changes where appropriate.
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?
We believe that a well workforce is more engaged and therefore more productive and profitable. However, it’s difficult to quantify the direct correlation because there are so many variables and factors, controlled and otherwise, that impact an organization’s productivity and profitability. What we do know is that when employee satisfaction is high, you tend to see increased retention rates, which often translate to higher productivity and, in turn, higher profitability.
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?
I agree that wellness programs should be held to the same standard as other initiatives — there needs to be a compelling business case. But rather than get locked into old ways of thinking about ROI and productivity, I suggest that leaders think more expansively about the impact wellness programs can have on their organizations.
At a time when we are all trying to recruit and retain the highest-performing employees, it’s critical that we demonstrate how much we care about them individually as human beings — and collectively as part of a vibrant work community. Offering wellness benefits that employees want — such as on-site fitness centers and discounts to local gyms and studios — can help employees feel valued, which leads to lower turnover and higher retention rates. Employees want to stay with employers who care about them — think about wellness programs as a way of demonstrating that care.
Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?
HealthFitness is considered an industry pioneer and leader, and our focus on wellbeing is reflected in our recruitment and hiring processes.
When promoting opportunities to join our company, the talent acquisition team highlights many of the unique benefits of working for our company and emphasizes them as key differentiators during interviews. Benefits include PTO, personal holidays, paid new-parent leave, gym memberships, employee assistance program (EAP), and back-up eldercare and childcare in case the services are closed. We also offer a wellness program, where employees can earn discounts on their medical premiums, enjoy free health coaching, and even receive cash for hitting specific “point thresholds” for the year. Employees earn points by completing preventative exams and screenings, by exercising, attending health seminars, and taking steps to care for their health each day.
Additionally, we have a gym membership benefit because we have so many remote workers. Conveniently, employees can live-stream group fitness, stretch breaks, and educational classes via our HealthFitness360 app, which keeps our employees connected to each other through shared experiences.
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.
- Mental Wellness: We provide a layer of mental health support that complements our clients’ existing mental health offerings by promoting fitness and physical activity as tools for stress and anxiety prevention, as well as relief. We also offer a selection of challenges and content to educate and guide our members on prioritizing their mental health. Recently, we added mental health first aid (MHFA) courses and certifications to our portfolio of offerings. These are skill-based courses that teach individuals how to identify and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges. These certifications help raise awareness and reduce stigma for those needing assistance. Once they have passed the test at the end of their course, participants are considered “First Aiders” and are ready to apply the information at work and in their lives. These folks become advocates for mental health and help positively impact a culture that supports mental wellbeing for all. We also offer a six-week “Thrive, Building Resilience” program which can be delivered by our coaching team on-site or virtually.
- Emotional Wellness: Our fitness and wellness challenges include time-bound, trackable activities across a variety of categories, including stress management and emotional wellness. For example, an upcoming “Positively Present” wellness challenge takes employees through numerous mindfulness techniques to help improve their resiliency and emotional wellness. The four-week challenge encourages employees to set goals and reflect on their accomplishments, especially as they learn to build mindfulness practices into their lives.
- Social Wellness: To support program engagement and inspire action, our health professionals develop and deliver educational seminars, classes, and meet-ups to help employees progress toward small goals — including social wellness. Timely health topics include social wellbeing, where employees learn how social connections can increase motivation, improve health, and support longevity. Another topic includes gratitude, where employees learn how to nurture a grateful mindset and discover the effect that appreciation and thankfulness have on wellness.
- Physical Wellness: We know that people want more personalization when it comes to physical wellness, so we will be rolling out an Advanced Personal Training pilot in the coming months. The intent is to leverage mobile-app and wearable-device technology to provide a higher level of personalized service that helps the individual achieve their goals more quickly and efficiently. The pilot will include a strong community and relationship play as our research has confirmed that members’ physical training goals are more achievable when others are encouraging and supporting their efforts. This pilot will help harness the customer-obsessed approach we foster today while amplifying it with innovative technology, both on-site and virtually.
- Financial Wellness: Our educational meetups help employees clarify the confusing “noise” surrounding various topics by providing quick learning opportunities and key takeaways that get straight to the facts. Financial wellness topics include “Financial Savings,” where employees learn how to reach financial goals by planning ahead. Another topic, “Paying with Plastic,” teaches employees how to protect their money and keep their finances secure.
How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?
Rather than reskilling, we instead are continuing to build on what our leaders already practice. All managers have access to, and new managers are required to complete, training courses which include topics such as “Establishing an Engaged Workforce,” “Preventing Burn Out,” and “Being a Fair and Caring Manager.”
Managers are continuously informed of available benefits, in order to support their staff with appropriate resources. By ensuring our leaders are equipped with the right training and tools, we know they are fostering an environment in which associates are provided with support in all aspects of their wellness.
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?
I’d like to share a story from Amy, one of our client’s fitness center participants, to show how it takes one step to get started.
When her youngest child wanted to call a 1–800 number to order her mom diet pills out of desperation, Amy recognized that something had to change. She knew she had a lot of weight to lose, but she had always been intimidated by the idea of working out.
In December 2011, Amy gathered the strength to make her first visit to her company’s fitness center. She was self-conscious and didn’t want to ask questions — she just wanted to get started. By the middle of February 2012, Amy was more comfortable at the fitness center, but didn’t feel like she was making much progress.
Then Amy met HealthFitness professional Drew and he began by offering simple advice on how to use the fitness equipment. He later encouraged her to consider the personal training program, and he mentioned that a great way to stay consistent and accountable was to sign up for personal training with a buddy. A few hallway conversations later, Amy and her buddy signed up to train with Drew.
From this small step a decade ago, Amy has continued to find ways to incorporate fitness into her life. She has continued her buddy training with Drew, and now participates regularly in group exercise classes and fitness challenges designed by HealthFitness professionals.
The fact that Amy has now lost more than 100 pounds is absolutely amazing, but it’s only part of the story. Being active, eating better, managing stress, and getting enough sleep are now habits for Amy and her family. Her husband and kids now join her for weekend kayaking trips, bike riding, and trips to outdoor destinations, including Yellowstone National Park. Amy’s husband has even been able to eliminate his heart and blood pressure medications.
What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”
- Hybrid memberships: Today’s employees want to work out where and when they want — and it needs to fit their busy schedules. Our innovative hybrid membership model lets employees work out at their workplace gym, at home, or on the road when they’re traveling — all with the convenience of one membership. A hybrid membership is a combination of corporate fitness center access, virtual fitness classes, and partnerships with local boutique gyms and studios. Here’s one example of how hybrid memberships work: Kevin is a financial services professional who comes into the office three days a week. During those visits, he goes to the on-site fitness center to lift weights. Typically, Kevin catches up with his fellow employees while he works out, and it’s a great social experience. On the other two weekdays he works from home. On those days, Kevin works out with a virtual fitness class through an app that’s connected to his fitness center and the same staff he knows and trusts. Over the weekend, he takes a spin class at a local studio that contracts with his company through the hybrid health program. Again, this hybrid program lets Kevin work out where he wants, when he wants. It’s all built into his schedule!
- Personal and small group training: Employers should prepare for a surge in employee demand for more personalized services — such as personal training and small group training. Employees want to get back on track with their fitness and wellness goals. The need and desire for people to reconnect and create relationships with others has greatly increased — in fact, at many of our client sites the engagement of our personal training has exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Employees want to take fitness classes with colleagues, and they want to train with their work friends. These smaller, more customized training environments can offer employees guidance, support, and a sense of community — and we’re already seeing them start to explode in popularity this year. Our certified trainers deliver more than 6,500 sessions nationwide per month, using our proprietary HealthFitness Movement Training System. Training includes consultation, assessment, dedicated support, and a personalized, goal-focused plan.
- Support for total wellbeing: Total wellbeing includes nutrition, education, and mental health, and means caring for the whole person and nurturing a health-minded culture. Wellbeing services such as coaching and educational programs promote long-term health and wellness, and support physical, social, and emotional health. Our health coaches provide guidance beyond the physical aspects of good health, addressing emotional, financial, and social wellbeing to help participants reach their goals. Participants can connect with their coaches in multiple ways at the same time, including digitally, telephonically, and on-site.
- Support for mental health: With more companies reopening their corporate fitness centers in the last year, we’ve noticed a shift in why members are working out. People are coming back to the fitness center for their physical health, as well as their mental health. As an example, employees at a leading financial services firm see working out at the fitness center as a much-needed break because it allows them to get away from their desk and computer. They say the corporate fitness center is their refuge because they feel better both physically and mentally.
- Outdoor programming: Over the past year, some companies started to experiment with fitness activities and events designed to get employees outdoors. Now that this trend is catching on, it’s likely here to stay. For instance, at one of our manufacturing client sites, the fitness center was closed on a recent holiday, but members gathered outdoors to run a 5K together with the HealthFitness team. Another client example, a leading insurance company, has invested in a mobile open-air fitness trailer from our partner BeaverFit that gets their employees outside daily. Paired with programming delivered by on-site fitness professionals, this outdoor fitness trailer provides both physical and mental health benefits.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?
Pre-COVID, employees often viewed workplace wellness programs as simply a means to getting a discount on their medical premiums, or some other incentive. COVID has changed that.
When offices closed and everyone started working from home, people felt isolated and missed engaging with their co-workers in a supportive community. Additionally, the toll from COVID on employees’ mental health has been well-documented. We frequently heard during the pandemic that participation in the programs we offer — even virtually — was a boon to their mental health.
As they’ve returned to the office, employees are now viewing wellness programs through a different lens; instead of something they “have” to do to earn incentives, they are participating more because they genuinely want to.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?
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Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.