Voices of our Nation

Workplace Wellness Programs Need a Big Dose of the Right Stuff

Workplace wellness is any workplace health promotional activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace. Employee wellness programs is an attractive benefit for potential employees and major perks for existing employees. Before instituting a wellness program, workplaces should carefully weigh the costs and benefits to determine if initiating a wellness program will serve the needs of the workplace.

Chronic diseases such as depression and hypertension can have a variety of negative impacts on an employee; decline in the overall health, an increase in health-related expenses, lower productivity, as well as days of work missed. Some workplaces have realized the benefits of health promotion, and to curb the costs of rising health care, employers offer workplace health programs to their employees. Ideally, the office should be a place protecting the safety and well-being of employees while providing them with opportunities for better long-term health.

Employee wellness programs can boost office morale and strengthen employee relationships. Whether a workplace institutes a weight loss challenge, a runners group or an on-site gym, the workplace can bring employees together who have a shared interest. Changing how employees interact and support one another can translate to a more supportive and a positive work environment overall.

The cost of employee wellness programs is something that every employer must weigh. Obviously building a gym or bringing in a nutritionist will cost money. Some workplaces may not have the sufficient resources available to implement wellness programs. Workplace wellness programs also include policies intended to facilitate employee health, including allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding “walk and talk” meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. Effective workplace programs, policies, and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families, and communities.

However, a workplace wellness programs may inadvertently discourage employees from participating in the company’s health benefits. The health within the workplace is made up of numerous factors and some are out of a person’s control. Some employees can be genetically predisposed to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even diabetes, and it is important to take these factors into consideration when developing an effective wellness program for a workplace. For some employees, the idea of required participation in a wellness program is intimidating. If an employee doesn’t reach the workplace’s goal and money is involved, it can potentially add stress within the workplace.

While it remains unclear how well workplace wellness programs are doing at achieving all of their original goals, one thing that is clear is that there are benefits to both the employee and the employer. Wellness programs have led to higher productivity, lower absenteeism with a greater job satisfaction and commitment by employees. By covering the cost of a wellness program, or even just covering a portion of the cost, employers have the ability to take the cost burden of the most efficient programs off of their employees’ shoulders. Investing in clinically-proven wellness programs fosters healthier, more productive, and happier employees. Making wellness a priority by providing incentives can attract the best employees to your workplace. It shows that a workplace will care about the well-being of your employees which will make the top employee prospects want to work for you. Between health benefits, financial incentives, and possibly even improved job satisfaction, workplace wellness programs may be worth implementing in the workplace.

This article was contributed by volunteer blogger Shan Simpson and edited by volunteer editor Parul Datta.

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