Worksite Wellness : Effective Components
Organization America is increasingly investing in employee wellness because it is great business. In order to meet work rate demands, corporations must rely on a healthy, beneficial workforce to succeed in the highly competitive global marketplace. Over a hundred research studies in both corporate and governmental settings have documented the economic advantages of Worksite Wellness , including reduced absenteeism, reduced injuries and workman’s compensation expenditures, reduced healthcare expenditures, reduced employee turnover, as well as increased work rate, greater worker satisfaction, and improved morale.1-10 The more recent literature reflects improvements in wellness programming along with greater return on investment (ROI). In general, the more focused and intensive the program, the greater profit realized. To enhance their performance federal government Worksite Wellness may be able to incorporate some of the features described. Employee wellness programs demonstrated to have beneficial returns on investment often include the following features:
- 1. Health and work rate management model
- 2. Health risk appraisal
- 3. Health Screening
- 4. Incentives
- 5. High participation rates
- 6. Wellness coaching
- 7. Multiple formats
- 8. Senior Leadership support
- 9. Frequent contact
- 10. Open enrollment
- 11. Family participation
- 12. Smoking cessation
- 13. Exercise
- 14. Weight management
- 15. Stress management
- 16. Health screenings/immunizations
- 17. On-Site healthcare
Programs characterized by this model focus attention on identification and reduction of specific risks or behaviors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, excess weight, unhealthy diet, elevated cholesterol, high Blood Pressure (BP), stress, depression, and so on. High-risk employees are specifically targeted for intervention, although the most successful programs also direct efforts towards healthy employees in order to maintain their low-risk status. This model emphasizes outcomes as opposed to simply offering wellness activities for their own sake.
Use of a computerized health risk appraisal (HRA) instrument with individualized feedback and recommendations is almost universal in successful programs. Staff Members take the questionnaire annually in many cases. The HRA serves to broaden awareness, offer direction, and excite people to improve specific behaviors. In some cases, the personalized report is directly linked to appropriate resources related to identified risks. Research indicates that the use of an HRA is effective if it is followed by some kind of educational or therapeutic intervention for identified risks. It often serves as the entry point into wellness programs.
Many programs combine the results of the health risk appraisal with measurement of each employee’s biometrics, including weight and Body Mass Index (BMI), Blood Pressure (BP), cholesterol, fasting glucose, and assorted other metrics. Combining the results of the HRA with biological measures results in a more accurate risk profile. Computer health risk appraisals often incorporate biometric data in their risk analysis.
employees are frequently given monetary or other important rewards for completing an HRA, participation in a program or class, specific accomplishments such as stopping smoking, losing weight, or exercising, and for maintaining healthy status and/or behaviors. In many cases the monetary incentives/rewards are associated with reductions in health care insurance premiums. Some programs use disincentives as well as incentives/rewards, such as charging employees who use tobacco higher rates for their health care insurance contribution.
Successful programs use incentives/rewards to drive participation rates up. They also market their programs extensively, and may use contest or challenge strategies to heighten enthusiasm and promote participation.
employees with identified risks or desire to improve their health habits may be periodically coached via phone by trained health and wellness coaches. Health & Wellness Coaching helps employees set and achieve realistic lifestyle-related goals and objectives including those approaching stress, work life balance, smoking, weight, physical activity, and various behavior modifications. Three or more sessions are generally available. In some intensive programs, the coaching extends to actual disease management intervention for employees with identified elevated-risk diseases.
Programs may offer wellness content in online, paper, and seminar formats to offer stimulating variety and alternatives in order to accommodate the needs of all employees. In addition to on-Site physical activity and healthy eating events, on-line programs, e-mail reminders and notices, printed newsletters and materials, and organization courses are common dissemination strategies.
Enthusiastic and frequent endorsement by upper management is critical to achieving high rates of participation. When senior executives are wellness role models themselves the effects of endorsement are enhanced.
Successful programs have frequent contact of some sort with every employee. This may be through marketing efforts (e.g., posters, e-mail notices, reminders, or messages, etc.), bulletin boards, newsletters, employee meeting presentations, discussion in new employee orientation, supervisory sessions, etc. The key is to enhance employee awareness of wellness and health opportunities and reinforce the corporate emphasis on wellness through frequent and multiple “touches”.
To promote high participation rates employees must have easy access to the wellness programs and activities. Open and uncomplicated enrollment processes achieve this. Some corporations automatically enroll all employees and then allow those who do not wish to take part to “opt-out”. This practice has been demonstrated to boost enrollment rates in some settings.
Many programs promote spouses and other family members to take part in the organization wellness activities and to adopt a healthy lifestyle along with the designated employee. It is far easier for the employee to have a healthy lifestyle if his/her family does so as well.
Because smoking and other tobacco use is the number one threat to health it is critical to offer employees effective and convenient assistance with stopping. Access to smoking cessation pharmaceuticals is often part of such programs. In-house programs offer the most convenient access to these services, although on-line or phone-based programs may be available as well.
Regular physical activity is a core component of every wellness program. Staff Members must be strongly encouraged to engage in regular physical activity. Most programs provide either periodic or continuous worksite opportunities, and some locations have worksite gyms, swimming pools, walking trails, etc. Discounted or paid memberships to community exercise facilities is a common alternative to worksite facilities.
Because obesity is a major threat to health it is imperative that programs offer effective assistance with weight management. Enthusiastic encouragement from upper management to shed excess weight is important. Internet based programs, workplace programs, or discounted access to weight management programs in the community may all be available. Long-term follow-up is critical for maintenance of weight loss.
Workplace stress is perhaps the most common objection among employees and a major contributor to absenteeism, presenteeism (reduced work rate), and low morale. Almost all successful wellness programs offer assistance with personal and worksite stress. Some programs refer employees to outside resources for more genuine conditions like depression and anxiety disorders, but most offer online or frequent worksite general stress reduction programs. Some corporations endeavor to structure the work environment to minimize stress, both physically and operationally.
employees are actively encouraged to complete recommended healthcare screenings for Blood Pressure (BP), cholesterol, BMI, colorectal and breast cancer, and others. Annual influenza immunizations are also encouraged. Some sites offer these services at the workplace. Incentives are often awarded for completion of these screenings/immunizations.
Actual provision of on-Site primary care medical services is a growing trend. The rapidly escalating expenditures of medical care insurance for employees has stimulated this trend. Some corporations have found that it is less expensive to offer primary care services themselves than to fund those services through health care insurance. On-Site care also reduces the amount of time employees would otherwise spend away from the workplace getting such services.
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