Community and Employee Well-Being: Inextricably Linked


By Beth Shepard

Most employee wellness programs focus on the health and well-being of workers. Recognizing the influence of home and family on lifestyle, a growing number of organizations extend wellness benefits and activities to dependents. Others take a broader view and encompass the larger community, understanding that many factors outside the workplace influence well-being — and that healthy communities foster healthy workers and families.

Why Community Well-Being Matters

Personal safety, food security, and air quality are just a few contributors to community well-being. When people don’t feel safe in their own neighborhoods, can’t easily access healthful foods, or live in highly polluted areas, health and quality of life suffer. In contrast, a flourishing community cultivates a thriving, productive workforce. When a company helps make the community a better place to work and live, it extends the reach of workplace wellness and strengthens its reputation as a valuable corporate neighbor… and that’s good for business.

A Call to Action

The Vitality Institute recently published  Beyond the Four Walls: Why Community Is Critical to Workforce Health, stressing that workplace health promotion is insufficient without community health promotion. The report includes a Call to Action for Strategic Employer-Community Partnerships in Health Promotion with specific strategies and a collection of compelling case studies.

The Pound for Pound Challenge

Kaiser Permanente has a long history of community involvement… and their new Pound For Pound Challengeoffers a unique example of employee and community wellness integration. Developed in collaboration with Health Enhancement Systems, the voluntary program lasts 5-8 weeks (depending on when employees sign up) and centers around the commitment to donate 1 pound of fresh produce for every pound lost, up to 2 pounds a week/participant. The goal is to give 180,000 pounds of produce to communities in need through the national food bank network, Feeding America®.

Tying participation to charitable fundraising has been a longtime practice of fitness event organizers. Kaiser Permanente employees are excited about this new opportunity to simultaneously help themselves and their communities. Challenge participants get tools and resources to help them lose weight and keep it off; community food banks receive fresh produce, which is often in short supply and much appreciated by the people they serve.

Everybody Wins

When organizations invest in community well-being, workers, their families, the community ecosystem wins… and employers benefit. Wellness leaders can help move the effort forward by:

  • Spearheading group volunteer projects
  • Facilitating connections between wellness initiatives and giving programs
  • Initiating conversations with company leaders on the links between community and employee well-being.

How will your workplace well-being program strengthen your community this year?


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