Even in this economic era of crisis, most Americans are employed and are spending over 2,000 hours a year at work. Therefore, the environment of the workplace is crucial to the health and wellness of the company and the community. In recent years, employers have watched health-insurance rates increase between 9 percent and 12 percent annually. Today health-care costs equal half of after-tax profits for the average private company. Chronic diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis), which are largely preventable through attention to healthy lifestyles and preventive services, cause 70 percent of all deaths each year and account for 75 percent of our $1.4 trillion annual health-care costs. And, although some of these health issues are debated as culprits in the dramatic health-care cost increase, Employee Benefits News lists the top three cost drivers as:
• Baby boomers (the large demographic group born between 1946 and 1964) reaching the age where more health problems surface.
• Exciting but costly medical breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
• The dramatic increase in preventable chronic diseases related to behaviors such as tobacco use, excessive use of alcohol, lack of physical activity and consumption of high calorie/high sodium foods at the expense of more nutritious choices.
Employers can’t control the march through time of aging baby boomers or the progress of medical science, but an increasing number of companies are successfully addressing preventable health-care costs through worksite wellness programs. Companies that have implemented comprehensive wellness programs have benefited from lower disability costs and absenteeism, as well as improved employee productivity and presenteeism.
1. Show visible support from company administration. If employees see leaders of their organization support wellness in both words and actions, this sets a tone regarding the importance of the initiative.
2. Designate a wellness leader. * Although this is often a duty of human resources, any employee with a passion for health promotion can work with human resources to plan and implement a program.
3. Conduct an initial survey to discover employee needs and interests. * One size does not fit all. Respecting the diversity of employee interests allows them to find their personal path to wellness.
4. Support opportunities for employee health screenings. Screenings with follow-up guidance help employees understand the risks related to biometrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI), and how lifestyle change can reduce risks. Employees found to be at high risk can be alerted to seek immediate medical interventions to mitigate the risk of a major health event.
5. Conduct physical activity challenges and campaigns. * Walking, weight loss and other company-sponsored events can help motivate employees to start on the road to better health.
6. Hold Lunch and Learns. * These educational opportunities provide guidance related to healthy eating, active living and stress management.
7. Create a wellness library. A selection of DVDs, books and magazines with sound advice on healthy living gives employees the background information to make good choices.
8. Disseminate a quarterly newsletter. This is often the only opportunity to reach employees who are not yet ready to change unhealthy behaviors. Keeping the newsletter brief increases the odds that it will be read.
9. Implement policies to encourage healthy behaviors. Changes such as tobacco-free campuses and company vehicles, and healthy snack choices in vending machines and at meetings, send a message promoting a healthy corporate culture.
10. Support community health efforts. * Employers are a part of the local community. Supporting community efforts to promote healthy environments and cultural norms ultimately reinforces the wellness efforts of employers.
LiveWell Chaffee County has supported many local businesses with a worksite wellness plan, including finding grant and funding opportunities to improve the current status of the workplace, helping organize and promote challenges and consulting on healthier food options. Kimberly Burgess-Anderson of High Country Bank knows first hand that LiveWell Chaffee County can and will change the atmosphere of a worksite in terms of wellness, activity and camaraderie.
With help from LiveWell Chaffee County, the Bank employees completed a 12-week Eat Right for Life Challenge, wherein they were challenged to gradually set goals that improved their diets, tracking their progress and were eligible for prizes when nutrition goals were achieved. Guidebooks were distributed to help the employees when they found themselves quizzical about fats, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, proteins and tips in avoiding sugary beverages. Dr. Ann G. Kulze, MD, a family physician and nutritionist designed the program. Kim says, “Overall the Eat Right for Life nutrition program taught us how to live a healthy lifestyle by eating right at home and the office.” In an effort to support the employees, the Bank removed the sugary drinks from the vending machines and supplied them with juices and flavored waters.
Once the nutrition campaign ended, the focus shifted to fitness. Employees met weekly for an exercise class led by Helen Wasler, an instructor at The Pilates Studio and Exer Flex. Having the cost of the class covered by the employer buy-in and a LiveWell grant, the employees were motivated and excited about working out with coworkers. Kim says, “Since we have been participating with LiveWell, High Country Bank employees are more in tune to making healthy choices and are motivated to be and stay active. Once a month we talk about wellness at our employee meetings to keep people informed and motivated!”
* LiveWell Chaffee County is here to assist in your worksite wellness efforts. Please contact Lisa Malde, LWCC Director, or Jon Fritz, LWCC Worksite Wellness Coordinator, for more information.
Lisa Malde: email@example.com
Jon Fritz: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, also, to Don Breece: a health educator who assists Chaffee County with their Worksite Wellness program and is also a member of the LiveWell Chaffee County Coalition.