WORKPLACE WELLNESS IS KEY

Author
J.R. Moody

The last several decades have seen an increase in unhealthy lifestyle epidemics, such as poor nutrition, smoking, frequent alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. As a result, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are more prevalent than ever, and are creating a significant burden on workplaces across the country. Many business are noticing that poor lifestyle choices are contributing to increases in health-related work expenses, reduced productivity, and more frequent days of missed work.

Although the impacts of health and wellness on the workplace are evident, many employers still resist the idea of implementing a workplace wellness program because most of the benefits are intangible or not immediately apparent, making them hard to measure where the bottom line is concerned. Understandably, it’s difficult to convince someone with a budget to invest money into a program from which there isn’t an abundantly clear and scheduled return.

According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, employers receive an average of $3.48 back for every dollar spent on employee wellness. Based on the fact that almost 90 percent of all health care costs are preventable, that number appears conservative. The dollar amount comes from the combined benefits of basic employee health, increased moral and happiness, increased productivity, reduced annual healthcare premiums, and reduced absenteeism.

Having a wellness program in place also contributes to the image and employee retention aspect of a business. Wellness programs are an attractive employer benefit for potential quality recruits, and fostering the kind of healthful, happy environment they tend to afford may keep strong employees around longer.

Even though the benefits of a workplace wellness program are clear, Employee Benefits News (EBN) recently conducted a survey of 245 benefits managers, administrators, and human resources professionals, which found that only 44 percent of those included were running a wellness program. Considering evidence supporting the effectiveness of successful implementation, that number seems rather low. The time to develop a workplace wellness program is now. Such a program oriented on employee health is a considerable tool in creating a long-term worker asset management strategy.

The two essential components of a successful workplace wellness program are implementation and longevity. Before you can implement, you want to determine the needs of your unique workplace. This involves scrutinizing the overall attitude and preference of your employees and may be achieved through information-gathering techniques such as confidential surveys, suggestion boxes, or one-on-one interviews.

Once needs have been identified, you need to determine the wellness program activities most appropriate for your employees. It is often recommended to include a combination of education programs and physical activity. Based on the employees’ needs and your long-term business goals, some examples may include monthly nutrition workshops, lectures from local health experts (like nutritionists, gym trainers, or health practitioners), walk-and-talk meetings, on-site fitness centers, vending machines with healthy snack options, and company sports teams. As you prepare to launch your program, remember to properly communicate the program and its resources to your employees with posters, newsletters, and bulletins. Your program can be tweaked and altered as you monitor and evaluate results and employee response over time.

Finally, in order to see that desired return on your investment into a workplace wellness program, it’s important to encourage employees to see their wellness goals all the way to the end and to maintain them for the long term. The most common method of achieving wellness longevity in the workplace is to implement incentive programs. Reasonable monetary rewards, company merchandise (like clothing or mugs), paid time off, and contributing to healthcare savings accounts are all good ways to encourage your employees to sustain their health-driven efforts and help your wellness program succeed.

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