How Workplace Wellness Programs Benefit Both Employees and Employers
by Nick A. Titley, M.S., NPI-Certified Posture Specialist
You probably spend between six to nine hours at work, or engaging in work related activities. Some of you reading this article may also work on weekends and it feels like vacation time can’t come any sooner. Your work could be stressful to your body; some days seem longer than others, but it’s something many of you do daily and few of you can go without. Have you ever thought that your work could be contributing toward an unhealthy lifestyle? With inactivity, poor nutrition and other bad habits, working could be the next problem on your list if it’s straining your body.
The US Department of Labor (DOL) website discusses the rise of “lifestyle diseases” in the United States. Chronic conditions such as diabetes, and heart and lung conditions are becoming more apparent, leading to decreased quality of life, premature death and disability, and increased health costs. Chronic diseases are no longer restricted to the older working population; younger populations are now suffering from illnesses.
Employee absenteeism (absence from work) and presenteeism (reduced performance at work) are causes for concern by both employees and employers. Many organizations are now creating health care promotion and disease prevention based programs, or workplace wellness programs to address these issues..
The DOL explains that disease prevention programs try to prevent the onset of diseases, or to diagnose and treat them at early stages. Disease prevention programs firstly address health related behaviors and risk factors and might encourage better dieting options to help with the prevention of diet related diseases. Secondly, these programs attempt to improve disease control by promoting medication adherence for at-risk employees.
Workplace wellness programs include policies to facilitate employee health. According to the Center for Disease control (CDC) some wellness programs allow employees time to exercise, provide on-site kitchens and eating areas, offer healthy food options in vending machines, promote walking to work, and offer financial assistance and other incentives. Programs are geared toward health-focused and worker-centered environments where policies are designed to benefit employers, employees, their families and the community.
Think workplace wellness is a waste? The CDC released a report in January 2014 that found a 24.6 percent obesity rate in employees who sat more often. The Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, a health care organization, explains on its website that 59 percent of employees don’t perform an adequate amount of exercise, 50 percent have high cholesterol and between 24 to 27 percent have high blood pressure, suffer from obesity and have a cardiovascular disease.
Your health affects more than just your medical costs, so if you’re healthy then you’re more productive in all walks of life. Unhealthy lifestyle choices could lead to chronic diseases and cost you and your organization a great deal in health related costs, including lost time with family members.
Workplace wellness programs sound like the solution to work related problems, but do they really work? A study published in the Journal of Health Affairs sought to answer this question. Researchers found that after years of participating in a workplace wellness program, employees at PepsiCo saved an average of $30 in health care costs per person.
Researchers found that the disease management components — health related behaviors, addressing risk factors and medication adherence — of the workplace wellness program helped lower costs. Workplace wellness programs may reduce health risks, delay or avoid the onset of chronic diseases and lower health care costs for employees with evident chronic diseases.
If you’re interested in creating or joining a workplace wellness program, then I suggest you discuss it with a healthcare provider and with leaders in your organization. The National Posture Institute offers a Corporate Wellness Program that helps employers by providing individualized programming designed to educate and train both employers and employees on how to be safer at work and while at home.
NPI’s wellness program focuses on teaching ergonomic education, proper body alignment and posture principles when conducting activities of daily living (ADLs), exercise and stretch movements for employees while at work, and how to perform work related tasks in a biomechanically safe manner. Being a part of a workplace wellness program will only benefit you and your organization because it will improve performance at work, and decrease absenteeism and health related costs for both parties.
Workplace wellness programs are created to meet the growing demands of employee health while at work. Your health impacts your presence and performance at work; employers need to be increasingly aware of their employee’s health and a workplace wellness program can help reduce costs and promote healthier practices.
- "Wellness at Work." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 May 2014. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. <cdc.gov/features/WorkingWellness/index>.
- Mattke, Soeren, Hangsheng Liu, John P. Caloyeras, Christina Y. Huang, Kristin R. Van Busum, Dmitry Khodyakov, and Victoria Shier. "Workplace Wellness Programs Study."Department of Labor. RAND Health, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. <dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/workplacewellnessstudyfinal.pdf>.
- P. Caloyeras, John, Hangsheng Liu, Ellen Exum, Megan Broderick, and Soeren Mattke. "Managing Manifest Diseases, But Not Health Risks, Saved PepsiCo Money Over Seven Years." Health Affairs Journal Vol. 33.No. 1 (2014): 124-31. Health Affairs. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. <content.healthaffairs.org/content/33/1/124.abstract>.
- Smith, Karen. "Why Workplace Wellness Is Important." Why Workplace Wellness Is Important. Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. <acchamber.org/mediacenter/businesslibrary/workplacewellness >.
- "Corporate Wellness Programs, National Posture Institute." Corporate Wellness Programs, National Posture Institute. National Posture Institute. Web. 27 Aug. 2014. <npionline.org/corportate_wellness/index>.