For a business to be successful, it is essential that employees are healthy and are able to work at full capacity. Providing preventative care that promotes a healthier lifestyle for employees while allowing employee’s to invest in the future of their company makes sound business sense. Thousands of Americans continue to ignore their health issues because they do not have access to health care or because they do not take the time to visit their physicians (Migliore). A workplace wellness program empowers employees to lead healthier lives. Employers have been hit hard by the soaring costs of providing employees with health care benefits. Companies are implementing a variety of employee wellness programs to counteract inflating medical claims. Most employees spend a significant amount of time at work and don’t have enough time to look after their health.
The percentage of health risks among employees are rising. Some of these categories include obesity, stress, mental illness, alcohol abuse, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and inactive lifestyle. Having a wellness program will contribute to reducing health care spending, improve productivity through employee health enhancement, reduce health care spending, and improve productivity through employee health enhancement and health risk management programs.
BENEFITS OF A WELLNESS PROGRAM
A wellness program can be one of the most valuable resources because employees’ health is fundamental in businesses achieving a success. A business can adopt a strategic balanced approach to workplace wellness, where employee health is valued and is a component of daily business decisions. Although The Wrights is a small company and health insurance is not a major issue because it is only offered to a small group of employees, absenteeism and productivity are.
The benefits of the wellness program for employees are increased knowledge about the relationship between lifestyle and health, increased morale due to employee’s interest in their health and well-being, reduced accidents and employee turnover, reduced absenteeism and stress, reduced compensation costs, improved employee relations and employee decision-making (Brisbin 23) . In addition, employee’s productivity is increased because exercise has an impact on job performance.
NASA found that while the productivity of non-exercising employee’s decreased 50% during the final hours of the work -day, exercisers worked at full efficiency all day (Anderson 89). Studies show that physical activity can improve job satisfaction and team spirit. By instituting a wellness program in your company employees will receive the benefits of feeling better, less incidence of disease, more stamina, weight loss and better sleep.
Employers who invest in wellness programs not only save the company money but they receive the benefits of increased productivity, more satisfied employees and the company develops a reputation for being a good employer. By instituting a wellness program employers gain the potential benefits of increased worker proficiency, increased worker self-confidence, decreased organizational conflict, informed health care, cost-conscious, work-force-positive public relations, and a recruitment tool for new workers ( Anderson 123). In addition, it is a cost savings because it reduces employee replacement costs, claims and insurance costs. According to a study undertaken by the Wellness Institute, the overall cost-benefit analysis demonstrated a return of up to $1.64 for every dollar spent on improving the health of employees (Chenoweth 67).
INSTITUTING A WELLNESS PROGRAM
The Wrights could have minimal wellness program requirements. The program could be under the direction of the Health Promotion Coordinator. The Coordinator’s main responsibilities would be to design and coordinate a wellness program that protects the health of employee’s. The first step a wellness program needs to take to gain employee participation is making employees aware of their personal health risks.
In order to achieve a significant improvement, a company needs to set goals and devise a reasonable strategy for achieving them. An employee wellness program should be initiated only after sufficient research about the needs of the employees has been conducted. Elements of a successful wellness program include involvement and participation from top management, knowledge stimulating leadership, and medically sound and professionally planned activities (Hulett).
Preventative health care at the worksite recognizes the importance of illness prevention through self-care. Some steps that could be initiated in the workplace are education about individual lifestyles, incentives to change to healthy lifestyles, health screenings for early detection and treatment of health problems, and communication materials such as newsletters should be readily available. Specific elements of a wellness program might include classes on weight control, nutrition, smoking cessation, high blood pressure control and stress management. Immunizations should also be offered through the company.
A company should encourage employees to participate in physical activities in order to help meet job related medical standards or physical requirements. Since there is no on- site fitness center at The Wrights, flextime could be offered to employees that want to exercise during lunch hours, as well as before or after work. Off- site facilities and resources should be addressed to employees. In addition, the company could offer gym membership discounts. Short periods of excused absences may be given for employees to participate in health fairs or one time educational awareness programs.
A wellness program policy promotes employee health, morale and productivity. Programs should provide equal opportunities for all employees regardless of age, sex, and should provide provisions for employees with disabilities. An estimated minimal wellness program costs an employer between $60- $80 per employee annually (Brisbin 76). Participants of a Wellness Program with three to five risk factors offer an employer a return of $2 for every dollar spent (Brisbin 89). By implementing wellness initiatives in the workplace cost savings can be expected in areas such as lost time, short- and -long term disabilities, training, and health care claims.
Companies are beginning to be responsible for ensuring that their employees’ environment fosters health not disease. If we believe that all injuries and most illnesses are preventable, then employee health becomes an integral part of each business. Health, like other facets of business, can be both managed and self-managed. Promoting the concept of preventative health care and wellness for employees is a positive endorsement of good health care and wellness for employees, longer and more productive careers, and a higher quality of life.
“The success of an employee wellness program depends on how a company chooses to measure outcomes,” says Nancy Muller, health educator for CareAlliance Health Services (Hulett). A company can track medical care spending and absenteeism, look at worker productivity, get a sense of whether they’ve created and fostered a better work community. In the end, it’s a matter of retaining employees. It’s an investment in people.
Anderson, Rebecca. Promoting Employee Health: A Guide For Worksite Wellness. New York: American Society Co., 1999.
Brisbin, Robert. Workplace Wellness: The Key to Higher Productivity and Lower Health Costs. New York: PB Wiley, 1997.
Chenoweth, David. Worksite Health Promotion. Boston: Human Kinetics Publications, 1998.
Gutknecht, Douglas. Building Productive Organizations Through Health and Wellness Programs. New York: University Press of America, 1990.