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Starting a wellness program at work

“More businesses need to recognize that poor health means lower productivity and higher health insurance costs.  Smart business leaders increasingly are finding that it is the right decision to promote health, education, physical activity, and preventive benefits in the workplace.”

Tommy Thompson,

Former US Secretary of Health and Human Services

I have previously posted on this blog about the importance of working some exercise into your day. An effort must be put into living a healthy lifestyle if we wish to feel better, live longer, and be more productive in life.  The benefits of healthy living are well documented, yet Americans still have difficulty committing to important changes that will benefit them and their lifestyle.

Employers can play a vital role in empowering workers to be healthier.  The real cost to employers for unhealthy employees goes well beyond salary and the ever-increasing cost of medical benefits.  Healthcare costs are steadily rising because Americans continue to live sedentary lifestyles, avoid exercise, and eat an unhealthy diet. According to the Center for Disease Control, American adults visited a physician’s office 956 million times from 2007 to 2008. That’s a lot of lost productivity for employers.

Since so many of our waking hours are spent at work, it’s an ideal place to find the support that can change our lives for the better.  Employers who invest in a wellness program will find the return on investment to be far beyond what they likely predicted.  Employees will be more productive, effective, and efficient.  General morale and synergy will increase as a result of effective group wellness programs.

It’s been a desire of mine to lead such a program at Domus, Inc.  Being a small, relatively young organization, I believe implementing this type of program will be both manageable and fun.  As I searched online for information, I noticed that the same themes are frequently promoted by healthcare and government websites. Check out some of the highlights and strategies I came across while looking into corporate wellness programs:

Getting Started

  • Select a leader for the organization and implementation of the wellness program
  • Form a task force to research, develop and promote the program
  • Establish a budget – there are federal and local government grants available to support company sponsored wellness programs
  • Conduct a survey to determine interest and types of services/programs that appeal to the employees. Some may be interested in walking every day at lunch; others might be more interested in activities outside of work hours like hiking or cycling. Finding a program your employees like will help them stick with it!
  • Assess general lifestyles of the employees and institute appropriate strategies
  • Clearly explain the benefits of being healthy
  • Designate an area within the organization or a suitable offsite location for exercise – even consider a corporate gym membership!
  • Get quotes from professionals to increase the effectiveness and authority of the program (e.g. Certified Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, Nutritionist)
  • Develop a plan employees can stick to and establish goals and outcomes
  • Choose activities that will help employees achieve the established outcomes

Participation and Adherence

  • Promote the wellness program – use periodic special events to keep employees interested
  • Encourage activity in daily life outside of the workplace
  • Encourage participation in group activities
  • Demonstrate and track progress
  • Provide healthy snacks to aide employees in their nutritional goals
  • Provide incentives that are achievable and meaningful (e.g. offer premium discounts on health insurance for top participants in the program)
  • Promote IBX Healthy Lifestyles or other health insurance programs for extra incentives and rewards

Results

  • Lower cost per employee for employers
  • Reduced stress
  • Better sleep and recovery
  • Improved production
  • Reduced turnover
  • Decreased absenteeism
  • Fewer injuries
  • Healthier and happier employees

With care and enthusiasm put into the planning process a company can establish a quality program at a reasonable budget. By providing time and attention to the program the organization ensures that employees will stay motivated and adhere to the plan.  A successful program will eventually result in ROI for the company through increased productivity and overall healthier employees.

Some keys to a wellness program’s success include:

  • Commitment and support from management
  • Leadership and a committed planning committee or task force
  • Positive health messages from the company and an environment that supports health lifestyles
  • Frequent and regular contact with employees
  • Integration with other employee benefits
  • Access to a variety of health promotion programs
  • Incentives to motivate employees to participate
  • Effective targeting of high-risk individuals
  • Health promotion program goals linked to business objectives
  • Effective planning, continuity, and follow-through on all program activities
  • Ongoing evaluation that reports on health and quality of life improvements, cost reductions, and return on investment goals

Organizations should never underestimate the value of their employees, but companies can increase the value of their employees by empowering them to live healthier lives. The spring and summer seasons are an excellent time to start a wellness program at your company.  Do this for your staff and the company will reap the benefits right along with the employees!

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