Workplace Health and Wellness Benefits and Program Ideas

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Dr. Purushothaman
December 5, 2013

What is workplace wellness? Workplace wellness is a broad term for programs and initiatives in the workplace that support the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees, and often their families as well. Organizational wellness is a business strategy and can be extremely beneficial to both companies and employees, offering short and long term return on investments. Canadian studies show corporate wellness programs returned $1.95 - $3.75 per employee per dollar spent!

Companies that implement workplace wellness programs see significant benefits for their company, including:

• improved employee health
• reduced stress and stress-related disorders
• better employee morale
• higher workforce productivity
• lower absenteeism and fewer sick days
• lower health benefit costs
• fewer short-term and long-term disability claims

It makes business sense to promote health and wellness in the workplace... and wellness programs don’t need to break the bank to be effective. One of the first steps to developing an effective wellness strategy for your organization is to implement a thorough workplace wellness assessment. Conducting an effective health risk assessment and environmental scan will help your organization set specific, realistic goals to improve the health and wellbeing of your workplace, and ultimately reduce costs and improve productivity.

Employee Wellness Programs

Organizations can offer a variety of health and wellness initiatives to fit their budget and assist employees in learning and developing healthy lifestyle behaviours. The following offers some suggestions for the more common health and wellness challenges organizations face today.

Stress Management Programs: Stress is one of the most common issues facing today’s workers, and its impact on health and productivity can be devastating. Employees' stress-related disorders cost Canadian businesses an estimated $12 billion per year (Vanier Institute of the Family). To reduce stress and improve mental health and resiliency, consider offering stress management workshops and lunch and learns to educate staff about stress and to teach ways to reduce and effectively cope with stress. If budget allows, offering an employee and family assistance program provides an excellent way to support employee stress issues, both at work and at home.

Physical Activity Programs: Employee fitness has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. The health risks of inactivity include premature death, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, colon cancer and premature death. To support fitness at work, some organizations offer onsite fitness facilities and programming. If your company doesn’t have an onsite gym, you can still offer group walking programs, yoga classes in a meeting room, stretch breaks, and encourage your employees to be active throughout the day.

Healthy Eating Programs: We are what we eat... and employees who eat fatty, sugary, low nutrient foods are not going to have the energy and stamina to be productive throughout the day. Poor eating also contributes to a host of illnesses and disease. As an employer, you can encourage healthy eating by offering and promoting nutritious food choices in your cafeteria and vending machines. Do you offer snacks at meetings? Avoid the standard unhealthy snacks and treats, and offer healthier options.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: One sure-fire way to reduce your company’s benefit costs is to promote disease prevention. If your corporate health risk assessment shows a high number of employees who smoke, are diabetics or take heart medication, address these issues through your wellness programming. Offer employee health resources and educational materials, smoking cessation programs and health screening services.

These are just some ideas of how your organization can integrate corporate wellness initiatives into your company, and help you see a return on your investment.

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