Wellness Brings Sustainability to Business

I hear the word sustainable daily. I hear it in the food community. I hear it in the environmental community. I have heard it more and more in the business community. The reasons that sustainability is so important is something that crosses lines and has brought many groups together to focus on similar and combined efforts.

In other words, sustainability is important. The fact that so many of us hear about it, talk about and take action to improve it is proof that sustainability is something that we all care about. There are many ways to view sustainability, but there is no way to deny its importance.

Before we get too far down this road of philosophical discussion and comparisons between the various areas that sustainability comes into play, let’s define it.

Sustainability is:

1. The capacity to endure
2. The long-term maintenance of responsibility
3. The responsible management of resources and resource use
4. Managing impact

These definitions are clearly different, but they all touch on similar things. They talk about capacity, management, maintenance, resources and impact. These five words are what I think of when I think about sustainability. They are all important and you can’t succeed in any area without most if not all of these things. If even one is lacking, there will be severe consequences.

That is why sustainability is such a big topic in so many areas of our lives. If we don’t practice it, we see big problems. If do practice it, we see success in the short term, but more importantly, we are setting ourselves up for long-term success.

So, how do we practice sustainability in business? It’s simple. We focus specifically on each of the five areas and move forward from there. Let’s take a look:

Capacity: How much do we have? How many customers can we serve? How many products can we make?

Management: This goes without saying. Is there a business on the planet that doesn’t have a manager? Management also refers to other systems in the business. You have to manage in order to be successful.

Maintenance: There is a reason we have repair people, maintenance crews, facilities managers and others that are charged with maintaining parts of our business. If you don’t maintain something, it won’t last very long.

Resources: This is something that hits home with any business person. You need resources to get started. You provide resources to employees to serve clients. You provide resources to clients as the core of your business. Without resources, we are unable to function.

Impact: The impact that various factors have on your business are summed up by all of these things. When something happens, there is an impact. For every action, there is a reaction. It may be large, it may be small and it may be something that takes a while to realize. Regardless, there is an impact to everything we do in business.

That is sustainability in a nutshell. You have to mind the five factors in order to be sustainable in any area. Business is no different, as you can see. The absence of even one of these things could quickly bring a successful business to a screeching halt or prevent a new business from getting started at all.

Wellness is a part of business. With employee health, there is an impact on the business no matter how you look at it. If an employee group is healthy, they are more productive, it costs less to insure them and there are better results overall.

That is well-documented and hopefully only becoming more widely realized. On the flip-side, if employees are not healthy, there is also an impact. They are less productive, it costs more to insure them and results are not as good.

This is the definition of impact. The health of employees is affecting business everywhere right now, whether they are trying to make an impact or not. These companies often want to be sustainable. They often pride themselves on sustainable business practices and processes that help them remain efficient, cost-effective and profitable. All of these things lead to sustainability.

There is one problem. What if a business is not putting a priority on healthy employees? If your company is simply paying more for healthcare each year and ignoring employee health, the model you are in now is not sustainable. Not only is this model missing all five of our pillars, which will disqualify it from most of our definitions, but it is missing the core of sustainability: the ability to endure and long-term survival.

Healthcare as we know it is only getting more expensive. Businesses are finding that it is more and more difficult to provide for employees. As the costs rise, both employees and employers are feeling the pain. The problem with the current model is that no one is working for sustainability. Employees are not managing their resources or impact. Employers are not maintaining their workforces and the whole system is being operated above capacity… hence the continued cost increases.

Think of corporate wellness as a way to reintroduce sustainability into your business. The five pillars of sustainability fit into the wellness model like this:

Capacity: How much do we have? How much healthcare spending can we afford? How many issues can we deal with before making changes?

Management: Management refers to the systems in the business. Employee health is one of those systems. You have to manage it in order to be successful. If you don’t, you just pay more and you know it is going to happen. That is non-management.

Maintenance: Just like business equipment and facilities, it is cheaper to keep something up than it is to repair after long periods of neglect or to replace outright. Maintaining employee health is the key to keep costs down. It’s that simple.

Resources: You get what you put in. When you put nothing in, you get nothing in return. We see this in all areas of life and business. By dedicating resources to wellness, employee health improves.

Impact: The impact of health on business is incredible. It can severely handicap a company or it can lift it up and create future success. It all depends on how the other four areas are handled. No matter what, health impacts business.

Just as in any area, in order for something to be sustainable, you have to be aware of capacity, management, maintenance, resources and impact. As we apply these to business, we see how crucial they are. As we apply these to wellness in business, we see how positively they can impact the bottom line. When we don’t apply them to wellness in business, we see just how negative the impact can be.

Sustainability is important. It is something that we need in every area. Business is no exception. When it comes to your business, you can easily ask yourself: Is my business sustainable? Now, take one step further and ask about your business health and your healthcare plan. Now ask yourself another question: Is your healthcare plan sustainable?