In this modern era, most Americans spend more than a third of their day, 5 days a week, at the workplace, a large percentage of which spends that time working in a sedentary job.
A sedentary lifestyle has greatly contributed to the obesity rate of adults. Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and other physical or mental ailments. And that extra weight can cost both employees and organizations alike. Obesity, combined with other risk factors caused by obesity, leads to higher healthcare costs and productivity losses. It is in the best interest for organizations to implement some form of health and wellness program in the workplace which will benefit employees, productivity and the bottom line by preventing, lowering, or managing the risk of serious health conditions.
The potential benefits are:
- Lower health care/disability costs
- Enhanced productivity
- Reduced absenteeism
- Decreased rates of illness/injuries
- Enhanced corporate image
- Improved morale
- Improved recruitment and retention
- In creased organizational commitment
- Increased well-being/self-image/self-esteem
- Improved coping skills with stress or other factors affecting health
- Improved health status
- Lower out of pocket costs for health care services (e.g., reduced premiums; deductibles; co-payments)
- Increased access to health resources and social support
- Improved job satisfaction
- Safer and more supportive work environment
A health and wellness program at the workplace can be aimed to focus on preventative health, lifestyle modification, and key health behaviors such as increasing physical activity, improving eating habits, reducing stress and even ceasing tobacco use.
It is at the discretion of the organization, at the management and HR level, to determine how comprehensive they want their health and wellness program to be, but even adapting a few components can yield positive results.
Promote Preventative Care
Encouraging and even funding on-site vaccinations for employees during flu season has one of the clearest returns on investment. More vaccinations equals less sick days or even weeks from employees.
Implement and promote physical activity class sessions (body exercises, yoga, tai chi, or aerobics) or a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for employees who participate. Encourage employees to take the stairs more often.
Recruit speakers and host luncheons on topics such as how to cook healthy meals, staying healthy and on track while traveling, or quick stress management skills. Strive to make sessions fun, informative and entertaining.
Invest in incentives
Create an incentive program that offers rewards – financial or otherwise – for employees who engage in healthy behavior.
Healthy Eating Close at Hand
Make healthy meal and snack options available to employees to help fuel their performance while also meeting their nutritional needs. Consider providing milk, juice, or sparkling water. Or you can take it a step further, and stock break or lunchrooms with fresh fruit baskets once a week or nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy options.
Be Mindful of Mental Health
Consider offering an employee assistance program for employees who have financial troubles, excess stress, or depression symptoms.
Recommend Behavioral Resources
Consider offering programs such as tobacco cessation, weight loss, or stress to help empower your employees to make lasting, noticeable change.
The main tenants of a workplace health and wellness program are awareness, education and behavioral change. As an employer, research the options and look at the resources available to you before implementing such a program. You can even start with any one of these ideas as a test run. If successful, you can and an additional component and so on. Or you can partner with another company to help run the program for you.