Workplace Wellness Programs – The Good and The Bad

Workplace Wellness Programs at the business level are beneficial, right? Wellness statistics clearly show that such Workplace Wellness Programs are not only cost-effective to the organization but can assist the employee in developing a healthier lifestyle. With the rising cost of medical care, Workplace Wellness Programs simply make sense. So where does the problem come in?

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Worksite Wellness Plan Return On Investment (ROI)

For well over a decade, research has been showing the effectiveness of Workplace Wellness Programs. For every dollar spent on Workplace Wellness Programs, the returns have been cost savings of between $2.30 and $10.10 in the areas of decreased rates of absence, fewer sick days, decreased WSIB/WCB claims, lowered health and insurance costs, and improvements to employee performance and productivity.

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Gold’s Gym Employee Wellness

Workers breathe life and value into your organization.  Within the modern worksite there are increasing instances of stress, anxiety, obesity, depression, and heart disease.  The modern worksite has become increasingly physical fitness-free.

Technological advances have lessened the need to “walk” at work.  Moving a mouse has the same level of physical exertion as pressing the buttons on a remote control.  Emails, the fax, and the internet have meant that it is possible to run a organization without having to leave the chair.  The “advances” affect physical and mental health in a disastrous manner ultimately affecting your organization’s profit.

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Workplace Wellness Programs: Flu Shots

Flu Shot Facts & Myths

Myth: The flu isn’t a serious disease.

Fact: Influenza (flu) is a serious disease of the nose, throat, and lungs, and it can lead to pneumonia. Each year about 200,000 workers in the United States are hospitalized and about 36,000 workers die because of the flu. Most who die are 65 years and older. But small children less than 2 years old are as likely as those over 65 to have to go to the hospital because of the flu.

Myth: The flu shot can cause the flu.

Fact: The flu shot cannot cause the flu. Some workers get a little soreness or redness where they get the shot. It goes away in a day or two. Serious problems from the flu shot are very rare.

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Advantages of Workplace Wellness Programs

Employer’s are learning that Workplace Wellness Programs is an effective way to increase productivity, improve employee health, lower medical costs and reduce rates of absence.

A report published in 2003 by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighted how important it is for employers to incorporate Workplace Wellness Programs as part of their business strategy. The report asserts that chronic diseases which are largely preventable place a heavy toll on organization, including lower productivity and higher medical insurance costs.

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Workplace Wellness Programs: Future Developments, Directions and Challenges

Demographic and technological transformations are changing the nature of work in our society. As these changes occur the comprehensive model of Workplace Wellness Programs described above will evolve and continue to develop. If current trends continue, the workers of tomorrow will be older, more racially and ethically diverse, increasingly female, and will frequently be located off-site. In the later case, technological advances are making it possible for more and more professionals to conduct their work from their homes. Thus the very character of the worksite will change and so must our efforts to deliver Workplace Wellness Programs. As an example, in the future it is likely that a great deal of health education programming will be delivered through personalized interactive multimedia formats, conveniently supplied to any number of employees through telecommunication systems.

As technological innovations increase in the workplace, Worksite Wellness Plan professionals will face new health related challenges. In the past, some have assumed that technology would make workers more efficient, thereby allowing employees to work less, while being more productive. In reality, increases in technological innovation have simply allowed more of us to take our work with us where ever we go and feel guilty for not being increasingly productive.

This trend may absorb increasingly greater amounts of leisure time that is normally devoted to relaxation and recreation. Subsequent increases in fatigue and stress will ensure the continued need for effective Workplace Wellness Programs.

When considering the scope of Workplace Wellness Programs described in this article, many will think of substantial investments made by large businesses. The reality is that 60% of individuals working in the United States work for a organization of less than 100 employees (U. S. Bureau of Census, 1988). Due to economy of scale, it has been difficult and expensive for small organization owners to supply adequate medical insurance and prevention programming for workers.

Worksite Wellness Plan professionals must understand this challenge and develop the method to overcome these obstacles. The evidence is clear that much more could be done to advance the health of our society through the workplace. As change agents, health educators must work to empower employers and employees through education of the benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs.

Workplace Wellness Programs: Integration of organization and Community Resources

Worksites do not exist in a vacuum. They are part and parcel of the community in which they are located. Successful corporate administrators are cognizant of the need for positive community relations and should do what is necessary to promote good will. What better way to bridge relationships than by utilizing existing community Worksite Wellness Plan services and initiatives whenever possible (e.g., voluntary, private and public health agencies) and providing health related services back to the community. Since the community is also the home of the employee, an effective mode of health promotion is through programming directed at the larger community. Sponsorship of community related health fairs is one example more are listed below.

• Encourages employee/employer involvement in the community
  Blood drives
  Sponsorship of fund raising for community schools and social services
  Community recycling initiatives
  Youth league sports sponsorship
  Job training initiatives
• Media and public relations initiatives advertising a healthy organization image
• organization newsletters and press releases on health issues to local media
• Environmentally sound use of community resources and waste disposal

Workplace Wellness Programs: Health Related organization Policies and Procedures

At times Workplace Wellness Programs have been instituted as public relations vehicles intended to enhance the business image with little concern for improvements in employee health. Companies who are truly committed to enhancing employee health and wellness, are businesses who have worked to include Workplace Wellness Programs into the organization’s mission statement. With this commitment, policies and procedures can be written to address short and long term goals of improved employee health, productivity, and morale. These policies and procedures are critical to the establishment of supportive organizational cultures conducive to employee health and wellness.

• Active employee involvement in Worksite Wellness Plan committees and organization decision making
• Availability of flextime work schedules
• No smoking policy
• Drug use policy and drug screening
• Motor vehicle seat restraints and the use of other protective/safety equipment
• Sexual harassment policy
• Family leave initiatives
• Consistent and frequent awards and recognition of employee work efforts

Workplace Wellness Programs: Safe and Healthy Work Environment

The environmental conditions of the worksite can be divided into both physical and psychosocial domains, both of which influence the culture and climate of a worksite. The cultural norms of a workplace have been identified as powerful determinants of worker health and behavior (Baum, 1995). Ultimately, workers benefit most from a healthy, supportive; eustressful workplace community was they feel valued and respected. Since adults spend approximately one third of their waking hours at work, one would hope that employees view work as less of a necessity and more of an enjoyable experience.

The climate of a workplace is also more conducive to enhancing health and human performance when the environment is safe, clean, aesthetically pleasing and ergonomically engineered. While some occupations maybe inherently dangerous (e.g., fire fighter, military personnel) all comprehensive Workplace Wellness Programs should control exposure to unhealthy conditions including: hazardous chemicals, noise, temperature, radiation and other risky conditions. Program examples include:

• Workplace Wellness Programs grounded in supportive cultural change strategies
• Environmental and safety compliance measures
  Control of toxic substances
  Universal precautions
• Ergonomically designed workstations
• Sanitary, clean, well maintained physical environment
• Recycling promoted initiatives
• employee & management training in emergency procedures