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Work Well With Others: Workplace Wellness Initiatives that Work

There’s a lot of buzz about workplace wellness initiatives and their ties to big-picture promises like “increased employee productivity,” “reduced healthcare costs,” and “lower employee absenteeism rates.” Is your company on board, or is it missing the boat?

workplace wellness

Do workplace wellness programs work?

What in the world is workplace wellness?

The term “workplace wellness” applies to any program or initiative implemented to improve your employees’ health, with the added benefit of reducing your company’s healthcare costs. Most programs and initiatives focus on preventive care (flu shots, blood pressure screenings and the like) and lifestyle modification (increasing movement and healthier eating). Encouraging healthy habits can prevent or lower the risk of serious health conditions or help those with existing health conditions manage them.

What’s in it for employers?

According to an article in Inc., employer motivators for implementing a wellness program or initiative include “improving employee productivity, reducing health-related absences, improving employee morale, and retaining employees.” The article also cites a study that shows “health and efficiency have a clear relationship—healthy employees take fewer sick days and are more productive at work.”

What can I do?

There are plenty of things businesses of any size can do to show employees that their health is important to the company. Here are just a few:

Promote preventive care

On the front end, consider offering (and subsidizing) an in-office flu vaccine clinic for employees to keep influenza at bay in your office. Or host a health fair, complete with confidential blood pressure, cholesterol, and body mass index (BMI) screenings. On the back end, discourage your employees from coming to work sick, and set a good example by doing so yourself. If you’re not providing enough paid sick time to your employees, you can expect them to come to work sick.

Simplify snack options

When you’re at work it can be easy—or necessary—to grab a quick bite from the vending machine or local fast-food chain. But these foods ultimately zap energy and inhibit productivity. Offer your employees healthy snack options that fuel performance and meet nutritional needs. Replace soda with juice or sparkling water, and stock snack machines with nuts and dried fruit instead of pastries and candy. You can even stock your break room with fresh fruit once a week.

Offer good health insurance

Yes, it will cost you money, but if you don’t provide your employees with comprehensive health insurance, your workplace wellness initiatives will fall flat. Good health insurance includes good preventative care, which may mean less employee absenteeism and more productive employees.

Send smoke signals

According to the CDC, men and women who smoke incur an average of $17,000 more in lifetime medical expenses and are absent from work two to four days more per year than their coworkers who don’t smoke. Offer insurance benefits that cover smoking cessation programs and nicotine replacement medication. You can also promote tobacco quit lines and meetings or workshops held by local chapters of the American Cancer Society or the American Lung Association. Refrain from providing ashtrays outside your building, and establish a company policy that prohibits tobacco use on your property.

Get up and move

Office workers spend much of their time sitting down, which isn’t good for physical or mental health. When you encourage your employees to stand up and move, you might find an increase in their energy levels, creativity, and willingness to collaborate. Locate your copiers and printers—even your break room and restroom—in a far corner of the office to make employees get up and walk throughout the day. You can even map out local routes and distances and organize a walking group for those who feel like getting a little exercise after lunch.

Identify extracurricular activities

Organize a company team for a local 5k or walk-a-thon, or reimburse your employees for race fees (say $50 per year). Contract with a local fitness expert or gym to conduct free lunchtime workshops or trial memberships. Some companies even purchase fitness trackers and sell them to their employees at a discount. Others host Weight Watchers meetings after hours. There’s something about a group mindset (and healthy competition) when it comes to setting fitness goals, tracking metrics, and sharing results with co-workers.

Practice what you preach

You can’t expect to instill healthy habits at work if your meetings and corporate lunches include doughnuts, chips, and cookies. Make sure you offer employees free, filtered water and use catering companies that offer fresh, healthy options.

Ready to start a wellness program?

You don’t have to launch a costly, full-fledged wellness program right out of the gate to make a big difference. Ideas that don’t cost a thing, like a walking club, can get the ball rolling. Start by conducting an employee survey, outlining potential wellness initiatives and asking employees to rank them in terms of interest (and add ideas of their own). But you must make sure that your wellness program is a continual effort that goes beyond handing out informational pamphlets. And don’t neglect the follow-up. Poll your employees to find out what’s working and what isn’t. It’s ok to adjust your program as you go so it remains effective, up-to-date and continues to keep employees interested and motivated.


The Anderson Group: Expertise that helps your office succeed. Questions? Contact Susan Touhey at 518-458-7726 or stouhey@tagny.com.

 

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