According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, an effective workplace wellness program could potentially decrease the average annual health costs of each working adult by 18.4 percent, and for working adults aged 60 to 64, the savings could be significantly higher at 27.9 percent per year.
According to The Wellness Councils of America, 81 percent of businesses in America that have 50 or more employees have some type of wellness program. One such establishment, Providence Everett Medical Center in Everett, Washington, was able to save approximately $3 million over nine years through its outcomes-based employee health benefit program by offering financial incentives to employees who met certain health initiatives.
An important factor in the success of a wellness program is motivating employees to buy into it through becoming invested in their health, or in the case of managers of human resources professionals, in their employees’ health. How can the HR professional effectively boost workplace health?
Holding a contest that monitors things like weight loss or physical activities can be a great way to improve engagement in a wellness program by providing a sense of cohesion and direction, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. For example, Kroger Co.’s “I Can Do That! Walking Challenge” encouraged participants to walk using a pedometer to track the number of steps taken each day and then log their progress each week onto a website.
Each division and business unit of the company was allowed to choose the prize for the winner — one chose a week-long stay at a health camp. The prizes motivated more than 32,000 Kroger employees to participate in its walking challenges in 2012, resulting in a total of 57,500 pounds lost.
With at least 100 million workdays lost annually due to lower back pain, according to The Wellness Councils of America, tackling this issue can be essential for many businesses.
One way to address this is to remind employees about the importance of proper posture as well as positioning at a computer to prevent back and neck strain, or even to encourage time for stretching periodically throughout the workday. Laserspinewellness.com suggests setting an alarm on a cell phone or computer as a reminder to get up and stretch, as well as participating in neck and back stretches at the desk to relieve muscle tension.
At Wegmans supermarket in Silver Spring, Maryland, employees are prompted over a public address system to stretch every two hours with staff sometimes gathering together in the produce department in order to have room to move around, with customers often times dropping in to stretch along, according to pennlive.com.
Encouraging employees to exercise is an important component of any employee wellness program. An article out of Harvard University notes that a substantial savings can be reached by companies that feature an on-site gym or workout facility that employees are encouraged to use.
If facility improvements aren’t in the company budget, other options might include providing employees with hand weights or implementing a lunch hour walking club. Offering discounts or partially subsidized memberships to a gym and providing secure bike parking for those who wish to commute by bicycle are just a few of the other often effective options.
Keas offers an app that promotes healthy living, with its success attributed to a complete focus on wellness and true engagement with employees, according to Mashable.com. The platform allows employees to set customized wellness goals that incorporate diet, fitness and mental health. It even includes over 25 games to help employees improve their mental productivity and focus.
The app also allows companies to pick certain health goals and compete against each other to help employees get in shape and lose weight. Chilton hospital, one of Keas’ corporate clients, reported excellent results using the app with approximately 40 percent of its 1,300 employees losing 1,230 pounds in a 12-week challenge.