Employer-sponsored health plans cover more than half of the country’s nonelderly population, which is approximately 147 million people. Half to 70 percent of employers now offer high-deductible health plans, which encourage employees to take an active role in deciding the type of care they need. This requires employers to educate employees to become smarter healthcare consumers and to become motivated to take action.
Workplace wellness programs have the ability to help employees take action in the right direction toward healthy living. They have the potential to keep employees healthy and productive, avoid illness and absenteeism, and save them money by consuming fewer healthcare resources. Workplace health promotion programs that can do all that will provide value to employees and now just need to be cost-effective at the same time.
Many small and mid-size companies are unsure if they have resources to support a comprehensive program. However, more and more experts suggest looking to scientific evidence to gain a best practices approach to developing company-wide wellness initiatives. By focusing on five major risk factors, it is believed that employers of all sizes can positively impact overall health and productivity at work.
Five Wellness Initiatives to Target in 2017
According to the 2015 From Evidence to Practice: Workplace Wellness that Works Study an effective wellness program needs to address the following five basic health concerns through creative and empowering strategies.
Get employees moving – motivate them to be more physically active. Regular physical activity has been proven to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, heart disease, etc. Numerous studies show that a physically active workforce is less absent and more productive, which is good for the organization. Additionally, studies show heading to the gym three times a week has been linked to higher pay by 7% for men and 12% for women, which is good for employees.
There is a growing body of evidence to support the need for implementing nutritional advice and apps into employees’ everyday lives. According to June 2016 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40% of American adults are obese. And already in 2013, 24% of all Americans had a least one diet-related medical condition. A good first step companies can take is to team up with vendor partners to boost better snacking habits and work performance.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to offer smoking cessation programs. Employees who smoke cost employers up to $1,632 more per year than non-smokers. Where as tobacco cessation initiatives cost an average of $1.20 to $4.80 per employee per year. Smokers have higher health insurance premiums and often experience higher claims. So anyway it’s looked at, smoking costs employers and employees.
There is a strong link with employees’ stress levels and with their health, relationships and productivity. A report by the Mental Health Foundation in May of 2016 on the damaging effect that poor employee wellbeing is having on employees and businesses, found that one in four people have considered resigning due to stress and one in five take a day off work due to stress. With a multigenerational workforce in the workplace, there are a number of daily stressors that employees experience related to finances, physical health, mental health, etc. that need to be addressed through wellness efforts. Creating time for employees to engage in brief periods of physical activity, socialize with coworkers or visit with a mental health care provider during the day can prevent chronic stress and decrease this risk factor.
According to the CDC, between 50 and 70 million Americans have chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to other diseases like hypertension, diabetes, depression, obesity, increased mortality and reduced quality of life. Regular, quality sleep has so many important health and wellbeing efforts, it’s becoming a priority to employers. A small percentage of companies offer special napping chairs or rooms to help employees recharge throughout the day. To get started, employers may want to begin by providing information from sleep resources such as the National Sleep Foundation.
Source: Benefits Magazine. 5 Health Risks Worth Targeting. June 2016. PP 16-21.