January 22, 2015

Give Wellness a Promotion

Show your employees you value their health — and they will value you.

A healthy employee is a productive employee and perhaps your biggest investment. So it makes good business sense to protect that investment with a wellness program that encourages participation and monitors progress. Although it’s not necessary to provide an exhaustive range of wellness options, studies show that successful corporate wellness programs are customized for the attitudes, values and practices that comprise a company’s unique culture.

Many companies cite reducing healthcare costs as their number-one motivator for establishing a wellness program. Other reasons include improving employee productivity, reduced health-related absences, and improving employee morale and employee retention. Health and productivity have a symbiotic relationship — healthy employees take fewer sick days and are more efficient and effective on the job.

When designing elements of a wellness program, here are eight key questions to consider and possible solutions.

Is my workforce competitive?
Wellness solution: Group exercise classes and workplace contests that encourage employees to push each other to adopt healthier lifestyles.

Are my employees motivated by individual recognition?
Wellness solution: Make it a goal to get employees up and out of their workspace for 10 minutes by walking around the building each day. Initiate a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for people who participate. Reward people with small tokens for building and maintaining a healthy habit.

How can my company have solid metrics to know if a wellness program or initiative is working?
Wellness solution: Consider offering an annual health insurance discount to employees if they complete a blood pressure and cholesterol screening. To earn the same discount the next year, participants need to prove they have maintained or improved their health stats. After several years, your company will have an average and be able to pinpoint where money is being saved.

How can my company emphasize preventive care?
Wellness solution: Sponsor onsite flu vaccinations or, if your company’s insurance plan doesn’t already cover it, consider reimbursing employees for vaccination fees. Flu season can be costly to any size company — prepare for it by helping employees avoid the flu.

How can my employees learn more about healthy living?
Wellness solution: Turn your office into a classroom. Host lunchtime seminars and bring in local chefs for healthy cooking demos or experts to teach stress management skills. If space allows, recruit yoga or aerobics instructors for lunchtime workouts. Keep sessions entertaining but informative and offer perks for those who attend — discount cards to a local health food store or partner with a local fitness center for a complimentary introductory class.

How can I offer employees healthy food options?
Wellness solution: Fuel employee performance by ensuring plenty of healthy eating, drinking and snacking options are available in a micro market installed at your company that stocks healthy drinks such as Vitamin Water or zero-calorie soda, milk, as  well as nuts, yogurt, fresh food such as salads and sandwiches .

How can I help employees manage overall stress?
Wellness solution: Studies show that unmanaged stress has a direct correlation to heart disease, high blood pressure and a host of other maladies. In the workplace, stress translates to inefficiencies, job dissatisfaction and absence for related health issues. Consider offering an employee assistance program and encourage simple steps to reduce stress, such as regular breaks for a walk or a breath of fresh air.

How can my company help employees with lifestyle changes?
Wellness solution: Consider offering stop-smoking, weight-loss or stress-management programs to help empower employees to make lasting changes that will have a positive impact on their life.

Resource Corner

Responsibility for health and wellness at work doesn’t rest solely on the shoulders of a company — employees must be accountable and have a personal desire to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle habits. Share these apps with your employees and help them embrace their personal goals: Garmin Fit helps runners stay motivated; My Diet Coach is a motivational tool for people pursuing a personal weight loss program; and Lumosity gives a cerebral workout, helping to improve cognitive abilities.

This article was researched and written by health and workplace wellness writer Kimberly Winter Stern, who writes health-related content for a national healthcare system, major daily newspapers, and local and regional magazines, as well as culinary stories for The Kansas City Star. She is also the host of a food-related radio show.