Wellness in the Workplace: What Kind of Example are You Setting?

[fa icon="calendar'] Mar 28, 2016 8:00:00 AM / by Deborah Lechner

Wellness in the workplace is an important factor in employee health and safety, which, in turn, plays an important role in keeping your workforce engaged and productive and your company on solid financial ground. For these reasons, wellness programs are becoming a priority for a growing number of employers.

However, as anyone in HR knows, having a wellness program doesn't necessarily mean that employees will jump at the chance to participate. So how can you get employees on board with your plan to improve wellness in the workplace? While there is no magic means to get everyone engaged, you'll likely find it easier to motivate employees if you're clearly practicing what you preach. So, the question is this: What kind of example are you setting?

Is your company's senior leadership on board with efforts to promote wellness in the workplace?

If you haven't approached senior leadership to request that they lend active support to your wellness program, now is the time. Ask them to work with you on promotions, publicly support your program, and get solidly behind the goal of ensuring employee access to wellness resources – as well as encouraging workers to take advantage of those resources.

Making that approach armed with facts and figures on the potential benefits of an effective wellness program would be wise. This study, published in Health Affairs, is a good place to start, with results of a meta-analysis conducted on the costs and savings of such programs showing that that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. According to study authors, the evidence suggests that wider adoption of such programs could prove beneficial for budgets and productivity as well as health outcomes.

Are you offering health assessments and screenings?

Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings

According to the meta-analysis mentioned and shown above, these are characteristic tools of effective workplace wellness programs. The most frequently used are health risk assessments, used in 80 percent of the wellness programs examined by study authors. These are surveys that gather self-reported health information from employees. That information is then used to tailor available heath and wellness interventions to the needs of those workers. These assessments are often used in conjunction with clinical health screenings to identify health risks, which commonly examine factors like body mass index (BMI), blood pressure levels, and cholesterol levels. These health assessments and screenings work to alert employees to their personal risk factors, helping motivate them to participate in wellness initiatives geared towards eliminating or managing those risk factors.

Are you offering effective wellness interventions?

According to study authors, interventions commonly used among successful workplace wellness programs include providing self-help education materials, individual counseling with health care professionals, or on-site group activities, classes, or seminars led by trained personnel. Most programs offered a combination of these interventions. The most common intervention focus areas include obesity, smoking, stress management, back care, nutrition, alcohol consumption, blood pressure, and preventive care.

What about incentives?

Offering incentives for participation has become a common means of promoting wellness in the workplace. Most common are bonuses and reimbursements for wellness program participation.

Last but not least: Have you created a culture that promotes workplace wellness?

What is in your vending machines? Are healthy snacks part of the mix? Are healthful food choices offered at meetings and/or training activities? Are workstations ergonomically designed? Are employees receiving ergonomics training and evaluations? Are workers encouraged to use good posture and body mechanics at work? Is your workplace a tobacco-free zone? Are health and safety tips and reminders prominently displayed?

Begin with the end in mind.

In summary, there are many directions in which an organization can take its wellness program. Perhaps one of the best ways to determine the appropriate direction for your organization is to first determine what you are trying to accomplish. Use your organization’s wellness goals to set the course of your program.

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Topics: wellness in the workplace

Deborah Lechner

Written by Deborah Lechner

Deborah Lechner, ErgoScience President, combines an extensive research background with 25-plus years of clinical experience. Under her leadership, ErgoScience continues to use the science of work to improve workplace safety, productivity and profitability.