Employee health month – workplace wellness programs

What better time to discuss workplace wellness programs than during May, National Employee Health and Fitness Month? The goal of health and fitness month is to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle through worksite health promotion activities.

I’m thrilled to see that more employers are recognizing the importance of investing in employee health programs. Improving employee health not only makes workers more productive, it also makes the workplace safer and improves the organization’s financial health.

Hospitals in particular are focusing more on wellness. Here’s why I think this is happening:

  • There are a lot of baby boomers in healthcare — this means we are dealing with an aging workforce.
  • Nurses engage in demanding work, often working 12 hour daily shifts.
  • There’s a high percentage of obesity among the nurses when compared to the general population.
  • Due to physically demanding work, we see a higher rate of back injuries among nurses.
  • Healthcare professionals experiencing poor health are often challenged to meet the heavy physical demands of working in a hospital. This increases risk of injury and presents the potential for decreased patient safety.

Since companies often provide high incentives to lose weight and healthcare insurance premiums allow reductions for different levels of success, many employers use third party vendors to closely monitor wellness program participants. This helps keep employees honest and often co-worker participation — such as using other employees as lunch monitors to ensure that fast food isn’t by participants.

Keep in mind that an effective wellness program isn’t just about weight loss. It should also focus on diet, cholesteroland preventable diseases. Many diseases have modifiable risk factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fortunately, most of us can modify our behavior to reduce these factors.

Given the spiraling costs of employee healthcare and the known benefits of workplace health promotion programs, any employer who hasn’t added a wellness program may be missing an opportunity to better the lives of employees while improving their bottom line.

Need a little inspiration for your own wellness program? I’ll get you started with a few ideas to promote workplace wellness.

  • Offer employees workout facilities or provide discounted gym memberships
  • Provide healthy snack options
  • Organize a lunch hour walking club
  • Offer incentives for employees who participate in company fitness events

Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, tell me, what employee health suggestions do you have for improving workplace health?