Workplace wellness programs continue to gain traction across the country as the benefits of these programs on employee health, wellness and productivity become more apparent. Evidence-based studies have demonstrated both physical and financial advantages to the employees and to their employers as wellness initiatives are introduced by corporations.
Creating a culture of health and fitness provides a competitive advantage when hiring new recruits and retaining current employees. Many prospective employees absolutely will consider the health and wellness programs offered by a corporation when considering a prospective employer.
Why wellness matters in the workplace
The wellness and vitality of employees is closely linked to the wellness and productivity of an organization. A happy and healthy individual is more likely to be a productive and engaged employee, resulting in greater customer satisfaction and therefore a higher return on investment (ROI) and a greater value on investment (VOI).
Although measuring the full impact of wellness programs can be a challenge, what remains clear is that 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of a person’s behavior and that 74% of all healthcare costs are attributed to four chronic health conditions (diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer), all of which can be prevented or alleviated through the following actions:
- Participating in a smoking cessation program
- Increasing physical activity
- Maintaining a balanced nutrition plan that doesn’t contain processed foods and added sugars, and emphasizes healthy fruits and vegetables.
- Managing daily stress and not allowing stress to become “distress.”
These four factors should be the foundation of any workplace wellness program. By creating a health-promoting environment, it will enhance the health and wellbeing of your employees.
Innovation and its impact on the culture of wellness
Critical success factors for any health and fitness program are personal accountability and financial incentives. Most employees are faced with rising health care premiums, deductibles and co-pays, so they are motivated from a financial perspective to improve their health.
Incentives, such as premium reductions, subsidies of health savings accounts, paid time off and gift cards remain a major motivator to employees who choose to participate in an employer–sponsored wellness program.
Many programs will include a health risk assessment (HRA) and a know-your-numbers assessment (blood pressure, weight, waist circumference, blood sugar and cholesterol levels) to establish a baseline of the workforce’s health status.
Other innovative wellness ideas include the following:
- Offering on-site gym facilities, or classes such as yoga or tai chi
- Offering gym membership discounts based on gym use by the employee
- Having a 24-hour nurse hotline
- Offering a free lunch (a healthy one, of course) at the company cafeteria based on use of the gym
- Creating traffic light-style signs (red, orange and green) in the cafeteria to indicate the health-promoting status of various foods
- Offering discounts for healthy food choices in a company café.
Other incentives can include offering discounted pedometers and wearable wellness devices (Fitbit, Garmin, Jawbone etc.) to encourage increased activity, including team challenges. These teams should select members at random to encourage fairness, preventing the same individuals from winning every activity contest.
Another incentive is offering stress management and resiliency training programs that are individualized to the various divisions of the corporation, recognizing that each division may have its own set of unique stressors.
Unique ways companies are implementing an executive health program with their leaders
Executive health programs can be an incentive at the higher-management levels. Many companies are investing in employer–sponsored programs for their leaders.
These executive evaluations include a physical examination, nutrition and physical fitness assessments by trained specialists, and a stress evaluation followed by training in stress management and resiliency techniques.
For example, at University Hospitals, this program includes a personalized online health risk assessment that determines which screening procedures (mammogram, pap smears, colonoscopy) and vaccinations need to be provided at the evaluation.
Innovative approaches to employee workshops
Dr. Buchinsky and Dr. Adan are both seeing a strong demand for stress management programs as employees consistently list this as one of their largest health concerns. In addition to lunch and learn educational workshops that address this topic, employers are seeking more comprehensive programs that can create lifestyle changes that can be delivered both on-site and via remote access.
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