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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   January 2017

Creating a Healthy Culture

Promoting employee wellness can improve productivity and morale

At a Glance

Employer-sponsored health and wellness incentives and amenities:

  • Increase employee morale;
  • Improve the overall culture of a company;
  • Reduce absenteeism;
  • Serve as a vital tool to attract and retain talent;
  • Improve a company’s competitive position in the marketplace; and
  • Offer a marked reduction in employee health care costs. 

The average salaried American worker spends upwards of 50 to 60 hours per week in the office, and oftentimes that time is spent sitting at a desk or in meetings. Such a lifestyle can have serious repercussions on physical and mental health. Increased risk of heart attack, diabetes, weight gain and depression are plaguing the average worker, not to mention the impact of stress on employee’s bodies. 

The mortgage industry is certainly not an exception to this trend. Tight deadlines, stringent compliance and regulatory guidelines along with mounds of paperwork, constant follow-up requirements, shifting interest rates and market fluctuations are just a few of the pressures faced by employees in the mortgage industry. Whether you’re the CEO of a mortgage company or work in compliance, operations, marketing or sales, the stress and an ever-growing demand for increased productivity is creating an arduous climate that is undoubtedly not conducive to your well-being. 

Add these work pressures to the demands placed on employees outside the office, and it can be nearly impossible to find a harmonious and healthy work-life balance. In addition to working longer hours than previous generations, the lines between our personal and professional lives are being obliterated — via the profusion of technology, mobile devices, e-mail and social media — making it increasingly difficult to separate work from our personal lives. 

In essence, we never seem to unplug, relax or take the necessary breaks to unwind. The fact is, the price of a 24/7 world is taking its toll, and not only are our jobs killing us, this lifestyle is costing us billions of dollars in health care expenses.

Holistic solutions

For a mortgage originator, the amount of money you make is determined by how hard you are willing to work, but at what cost? Surprisingly, a recent Gallup poll sponsored by the Harvard Business Review found that a whopping 70 percent of the workforce is to some extent disengaged due to worker burnout, resulting in lower productivity and widespread corporate negativity. While work overload isn’t the sole reason workers are disengaged, the stress triggered by it is one of the chief reasons employees begin their job searches. 

With employees experiencing worker burnout at a faster rate than ever before, it has become far more important for employers to understand the value of balance and health in their employees’ lives. There needs to be a paradigm shift in which employers view employee health and wellness not as a required sidebar perk, but as a long-term corporate investment with employees as their most important asset.

In the hyper-competitive mortgage industry where day-to-day stress often runs high, mechanisms should be in place at the office that provide employees with choices in how and where they work. Employees need to feel a greater sense of control over the environment in which they work. They need to have on-site office amenities and options that offer them the ability to alter unhealthy coping methods when dealing with stress. In essence, employees need to be able to take advantage of the flexibility the mortgage field offers and find ways to step away from the countless distractions, endless details and constant hurdles in order to regroup. 

When it comes to employee health an wellness, it's all about creating a customized program that works for your organization and employees.

Whether it’s how they work, where they work, or the corporate programs and incentives put in place to help them attain better health and balance in their lives, employees need to feel as though they have lifestyle choices and, more importantly, they need the full support of their employers on that front. To be truly effective, a well-rounded health and wellness program should be holistic, including a variety of offerings that link to employees’ everyday lives — including amenities and programs that address the physical, mental and financial needs of employees.

Healthy business

Although the mortgage industry has been relatively slow to adapt to changes as a whole, there is good news on the horizon. We are beginning to see expanding interest in corporate wellness programs as more employees aim to put their health at the forefront of their priorities, and employers realize the lucrative benefits of implementing office wellness programs. 

Research has shown that healthy employees are happier, more engaged, more productive, less likely to call in sick and have fewer stress-related physical and mental health issues. In fact, according to Corporate Wellness Magazine, every $1 invested in employee wellness programs yields roughly $4 to $5 in savings through reduced sick days, higher productivity and decreased overall health problems. 

According to a Virgin Pulse Workplace Priorities Survey, 87 percent of employees said wellness positively impacts work culture and another 93 percent of employees polled stated that they want to be healthy and also feel improved health is a bigger motivator than financial incentives. The survey also found that employees want employers to offer more incentives and amenities, with the top-three desired offerings listed as physical activity programs, healthy on-site food choices, and on-site gyms and fitness programs.

A culture of balance

Fostering a culture of work-life balance begins with a strategy that is developed across the entire organization and is based specifically on the needs of employees. Regardless of whether you’re a small mortgage company with a handful of employees or a large organization with hundreds of workers, it’s important to develop a program that takes into account the needs of every employee — hourly and salaried.  

By focusing on specific employee problems and issues at the source, rather than dealing with the outcomes of poor health, employers will be better equipped to mitigate negative influences on health before they become an issue. Start by taking a poll of employees. Find out what they want, what they need, what their frustrations and concerns are, and how they feel you as an employer can help them achieve better balance in their lives.

While it may not be feasible to implement a long list of health and wellness amenities and initiatives, start small by offering a few of the most suggested, and build on your offering as the program evolves. Throughout the process, it’s important to encourage employees to become keenly self-aware of their own needs and tendencies because no two employees are created equal.

All employees have their own work and stress threshold and limitations based on their specific responsibilities within the company as well as outside influences and challenges employees face in their lives.

Implementing ideas

Once senior-level management is on board, the needs of employees are identified and the objectives of the wellness program are laid out on the table, it’s important to initiate a companywide communiqué to keep employees in the loop and encourage engagement. Begin with initiatives that target employees’ physical and mental health, nutrition, stress management and even financial well-being. Create incentive programs to encourage involvement and participation.

Simple, easy-to-initiate ideas that work and don’t break the bank include installing water coolers in multiple key locations; stocking vending machines with healthy snacks as opposed to the typical chips and sweets; providing a healthy, smoke-free environment; negotiating a discounted membership to a local gym; or starting a running club.

Many mortgage professionals use online tech tools to make their jobs easier while allowing them to stay connected, so consider encouraging the use of online platforms to allow employees to access health information at all times. Popular activity devices such as Fitbit or the Apple Watch give employees up-to-the-minute fitness goals, including calories burned, a daily step tracker and overall active minutes.

As the wellness program evolves and the budget allows, consider offering more advanced on-site amenities and programs, such as a fully-equipped gym with fitness programs, workstation improvements, health seminars, a wellness pantry stocked with healthy snacks and drinks, or a break room that fosters employee interaction — complete with a foosball or ping pong table. Social health also plays an important role in employees’ overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that employees who are engaged with and have camaraderie among their co-workers are less stressed and are less likely to experience worker burnout.

•  •  •

When it comes to employee health and wellness, it’s all about creating a customized program that works for your organization and employees. Whether large or small, simple or complex, every wellness program contributes to the strides being made toward a healthier workplace environment. 

Be creative, find what works, measure employee engagement and fine tune it as it progresses. Regardless of what you do, make it fun. The ultimate goal is to create a mortgage-company culture where employees choose to live a healthier lifestyle rather than feeling forced to do so.


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