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Planning for Employee Wellness

September 21st, 2018

Dee Brown

According to the Nurses’ Health Study, in the U.S., 70 percent of strokes, 71 percent of cancers, 83 percent of heart disease diagnoses and 91 percent of type 2 diabetes diagnoses are directly related to smoking, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating habits. In light of these statistics, employers are increasingly taking a greater interest in the health of their employees by implementing comprehensive wellness programs. This is particularly prevalent throughout the healthcare industry, including small and medium-sized medical practices. By committing to the development of an effective plan for proactive wellness, practice leaders are empowering their employees to combat rising health problems and healthcare costs through positive lifestyle and behavioral changes. These valuable programs can help reduce absenteeism, increase productivity, and lower healthcare expenses, providing impressive return on investment (ROI) for employers.

With the right education, skills, motivation, and social support, people can change long-term unhealthy behaviors and habits that increase their risk of poor health and chronic disease. Here are seven key benefits of an effective wellness program, as identified by wellness professional Dr. Steven Aldana:

  1. Improved employee health behaviors
    Effective wellness programs can help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors by providing education, motivation, and support. Programs that are well-organized and follow effective behavior change models show the best results.

  1. Reduced elevated health risks
    Elevated blood glucose, high blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure are directly linked to unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity. Wellness programs provide employers with an effective platform to encourage healthier eating and exercising behaviors.

  1. Reduced Healthcare Costs
    Very often, healthcare cost-savings from program participation are greater than the actual expense of the program itself.

  1. Improved Productivity
    Presenteeism among employees, or the act of being at work without being engaged, can be extremely costly. In fact, it’s estimated that the costs associated with presenteeism resulting from poor health is at least two to three times greater than direct healthcare expenses. By providing employees with support to improve their health, employers are encouraging a greater level of job engagement and increased productivity.

  1. Decreased Absenteeism
    Harvard researchers studied the ROI of wellness programs as they relate to absenteeism and discovered that for every dollar spent on such programs, employers can expect a $2.73 return due to reduced absenteeism.

    Worksites with comprehensive wellness programs can experience reduced absenteeism as a result of:

    • Positive health behaviors
    • Stress control and relief
    • Healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose
    • Healthy weight management

 

  1. Improved recruitment and retention
    Potential new hires consider a number of factors when making the decision to accept a job offer, and the availability of a strong benefits package with an emphasis on wellness can have a major impact on successful recruitment and retention of talent.

  1. Higher employee morale
    Wellness programs help employees engage with their organization, communicate with each other, and feel valued and appreciated. These programs can also convey to employees that their organization’s leaders respect them, trust them and want to help them be successful in life. Morale also increases when employees can be creative, solve problems, feel safe and appreciated, achieve personal goals, maintain work life balance, and take back control of their health.

Some examples of wellness programs implemented by U.S. medical practices include:

  • Preventative health screenings
  • Fitness center membership reimbursement
  • Vaccinations (flu, pneumonia, shingles etc.)
  • Exercise programs
  • Smoking cessation
  • Diabetes management
  • Weight loss programs
  • Employee assistance program (EAP)
  • Yoga
  • Massage therapy
  • Wellness events
  • Healthy snacks and lunch

 
For practices interested in implementing wellness programs, the next steps are to conduct an organizational assessment, obtain management support, and establish a wellness committee. This committee should work to obtain employee input and any external support. Program leaders will then need to define goals and architect programs that are specifically designed to achieve these objectives. Finally, the creators of the program should select incentives for participation and continuously evaluate outcomes, communicating the return on investment (ROI) to the practice’s management team.

For more information on this topic, Medical Mutual members may listen to the September HR|Experts mini-webinar, titled “Planning for Wellness.”

Dee Brown is Medical Mutual’s on-call human resources consultant. Medical Mutual members may contact her directly at dee.brown@callhrexperts.com or 919-431-6096.


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