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Ensure Employee Health and Reap the Benefits

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors

It sounds simple enough: improve workforce health, reduce health care costs.

It’s a private matter, one’s health, but many employers invest in on-site exercise equipment, sports teams or any number of activities that not only promote camaraderie, but wellness as well. On the other side of the coin, many more do not offer these things, instead leaving their workforce’s wellness up to the individuals.

Though some businesses may avoid wellness programs, often in order to control finances, the indirect costs of poor health (e.g., absence at work) can mean two or three times the direct medical expenses, according to a www.prevent.com study. Not to mention, for many businesses, medical expenditures already consume 50 percent or more of corporate profits and chronic diseases account for many health care issues and costs.

Combining the two expenses and the amount of money lost due to unhealthy employees, can any company afford not to participate in wellness programs?

With some experts predicting that the U.S. health care system will successfully transition from fixing people who are sick to preventive diagnostic medicine in the next 10 years, this is a great opportunity for small businesses to promote a healthy lifestyle. Not only will implementing a wellness program promote a healthy work environment, but it can also result in a return on investment.

As more companies invest in wellness programs, evidence continues to point to their effectiveness. In fact, a large-scale review of 42 published studies of worksite health promotions programs showed an average of 28 percent reduction in sick days and an average of 26 percent reduction in overall health costs. Sixty-one percent of workers whose employers offer wellness programs participate in them, according to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR).

Small business owners should consider what the reduction in health costs could be with 100 percent employee participation. For instance, 70 percent of health costs among working adults are incurred due to behavioral habits such as smoking, diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Yet only 35 percent of employers are offering wellness programs to combat those tendencies, according to the AWR.

A late-summer 2013 article published on www.smallbiztrends.comlisted several tips for successfully implementing employee wellness programs:

Make sure the program is comprehensive

Make sure it encompasses key areas of employees’ everyday lifestyles. It’s important to focus on a healthy workplace and community, healthy eating habits and stress management.

Engage employees

A recent Gallup study found that engaged employees are 21 percent more likely than actively disengaged employees to be involved in wellness programs offered by their company. Create an interactive, engaging wellness experience though social media tools to form teams and/or inspire them to lose weight, exercise more and, ultimately, become a healthier and happier workforce.

For example, create a Facebook group for workers so they can post schedules of different exercise events, healthy recipes, success stories and team progress. Add more incentive by offering the winning team the prize of an extra half or full day off of their choice.

Promote healthy eating

Bring in nutritionists to speak to employees during lunch, organize after-work healthy cooking classes for the office or communicate healthy lifestyle tips. Also, encourage healthy snacking by placing fruit bowls around the office or stocking the office refrigerator with yogurt and vegetables.

Market the wellness program to employees

Instead of sporadically mentioning the availability of a wellness program, actively promote a culture of well-being and health through outlets and venues that are most popular to them. Post flyers on bulletin boards or send out weekly/monthly emails with wellness tips and exercise events.