Wellness at Work

With 59% of employees desk-bound from 9-5, five days a week, it is crucial to encourage exercise and a healthy lifestyle. To accomplish this, many companies have instituted wellness programs for their employees and the results are very encouraging. Wellness programs in the workplace not only benefit the individual, but also the company as a whole. They have been shown to decrease absenteeism, increase productivity, profitability and the overall morale of the company. In addition, employee programs may also be a way to decrease health care costs. Health-conscious employees take better care of themselves. They are healthier, use fewer sick days, have fewer medical/disability/workers compensation claims and all that combined means that their employers save money.

One company that saw quick results was Coors Brewing Co. After implementing a wellness program, they reported that for each $1 spent on wellness, they saw $5.50 in return and their employees reduced absenteeism by 18%. According to Steve Coffman, the CEO of Reid Psychological Systems, “The tendency is to believe that wellness programs are just for deep-pocketed big business, but they're not. A small firm can start with something as simple as a wellness bulletin board.” His advice to business owners: Don't tackle all health issues at once, but survey employees to learn what's important to them.

There are many roads to take when first implementing a wellness plan. Some approaches would be to start by stocking the vending machines with healthy, low-fat options at a lower price, while keeping the junk foods at a higher price. Businesses can partner with a nearby health club for employee discounts. This way the employees still benefit without losing office space. Curves gym owner, Kimberly Robertson, partners with local business owners. Curves gives Health Alliance Plan members 50% discount off of the initial enrollment fees at Curves, as well as a $10 discount off monthly membership dues when members work out at Curves at least 9 times per month.

Health savings accounts are another popular type of wellness program among businesses. Whole Foods grocery store adds money to a wellness account based on an employee's hours. For example, after 800 hours of employment they get $300 and for one year they get $1200 put into a personal employee account. The employee can use this money at their own discretion for health care (i.e. physical therapy, chiropractor, massage, prescriptions, vision care, etc.). This savings account works like a health debit card and can only be used for health needs. It will not process for items such as magazines and candy.

Another type of wellness plan is based on increased awareness and works to educate employees on health issues and diseases. Some companies even provide annual checkups along with medical screenings. Johnson & Johnson screens their employees for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Companies can also educate employees on stress management or hold health seminars in the work place. Although it costs money to conduct such seminars and screenings, it has been shown that without the wellness program, the company had to spend more than double the cost of the program in healthcare costs, lower productivity and higher absenteeism. Johnson & Johnson reported spending $13 million on healthcare costs alone before they introduced their wellness program. After the wellness program was in place, that cost dropped to $4.5 million.

Any company can promote health and wellness by educating and empowering their employees.Make health a part of your company culture and your employees will have more energy which will result in more productivity.