Employees know their health is the most important thing they have, but many don’t have the time or energy to make their well being a priority. Long, sedentary, and demanding days sandwiched by tedious commutes make it hard to focus on one’s health. Our life and work styles mean poor habits are growing.
Employers have begun to realize that healthier employees are happier. They take fewer days off, produce faster and better work, and cause fewer workplace problems.
When health problems are diagnosed early, treatment is far more effective. This helps employers keep experienced employees working longer and harder.
A healthy lifestyle improves an employee’s personal life as well. They’re more likely to tackle new hobbies, engage in social interaction, and try new things. This creates a feedback loop where a healthy workplace and a healthy home life constantly reinforce one another.
Further, healthcare costs are always rising, and businesses are feeling the burden too. Health insurers know that well people require less care. Less cost to the insurers means lower policy prices for everyone.
Smart employers are incentivizing their employees to take part in their wellness programs. They give discounts on health insurance premiums, award prizes for weight loss, and hand out free gym memberships.
The typical wellness program covers five or six health components, like smoking-cessation, exercise, health screenings, weight-loss, and employee assistance. The best programs address mental, emotional, financial, and social well being as well. Often wellness is as simple as giving employees access to facilities and services, such as bike racks, ergonomic equipment, lockers, classes, workshops, or countless others.
The most important part of any wellness program is making sure your employees know it exists. A study by RAND Corporation found that only 60% of employees even know their company has a wellness program. That’s pretty low considering 85% of companies with more than 1000 employees have one.
You can make your employees aware of a wellness program in a few simple ways:
1) Make a whole day of it. Stop work for one day and spend it learning about the benefits of health, examining the program offered, and how they can use it effectively.
2) Appoint a wellness leader in each department or area of your company where employees can turn when they have questions. This person should encourage people to take advantage of the program.
3) Have your wellness leader spend substantial time with new employees to on-board them on to the program. A pamphlet and video are not enough; have real conversations.
4) Make sure management is involved. The company top dogs need to show that wellness is a priority by openly taking advantage of the programs they offer their employees.
If you’re interested in setting up a wellness program at your workplace, speak with your health insurance provider. They likely have a template program you can customize to your company’s needs. Or you can start with the CDC’s Worksite HealthScore Card.
Paul A. McLaughlin, Jr
Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer