Every year, the National Employee Wellness Month is celebrated throughout the month of June. This month - in its eleventh edition - the National Employee Wellness Month, once again, provides an opportunity for employers and organizations to enhance existing wellness programs and encourage their employees to adopt proactive strategies for improved physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing in the workplace.
Together, participating organizations in the United States will raise awareness about the benefits of a healthy workforce, emphasizing the relationship between employee health, employee productivity, and organizational success.
This association between employee health and workplace productivity should continue to be emphasized in a bid to encourage other employers and companies think in the direction of wellness.
Why Workplace Wellness?
Adults spend most of their active life working and most of the active part of the day is spent at work. Therefore, there is a close link between work and an individual’s health and wellbeing.
Chronic disease is one of the biggest challenge facing employee health and productivity at work: More than 150 million American adults in the workforce have at least one chronic disease: including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and mental health disorders. Chronic disease, financial stress, and psychosocial stressors at work limit a worker’s input at work, impair their ability to carry out or complete tasks, and promote absenteeism and presenteeism, all of which costs employers more than they would imagine.
A recent survey revealed that approximately 69 million workers reported missing work days due to illness last year, resulting in a total of 407 million days of work time lost. According to the Wellness Council of America, more than 100 million of these workdays are lost to low back pain.
Additionally, for American workers, $136 billion in health-related productivity loss is accounted for by fatigue, which is a predominant feature of several chronic physical and mental health issues.
Essentially, in the absence of wellness programs, poor employee health will continue to foster productivity loss in a vicious cycle.
Benefits of Wellness Initiatives
An effective wellness program is the one that educates workers and creates a culture of health, with the aim of initiating a healthy behavioral change in workers. These are the main benefits of wellness programs in the workplace.
The most important benefit of incorporating a wellness culture into the workplace is improved health and productivity. The healthier a worker is, the less likely they are to miss work for health reasons. For instance, DuPont Corporation reduced the number of days lost to health-related issues by 14 days each year after initiating a wellness and fitness program.
Employers with an effective workplace wellness culture usually spend less on health. A recent study by the University of Michigan revealed that employers who prioritized wellness save an average of $1000 per year for every worker that quits tobacco smoking and $1,200 for every worker that lowers their blood cholesterol levels to normal levels.
Similarly, Pacific Bell Telephone Company saved more than $2 million annually in costs related to absenteeism and $4.7 million annually in disability leave expenditures.Also, after the Lincoln Plating Company of Lincoln, Neb. started a wellness and fitness program that involved pre-work exercises and stretches, the number of work-related injuries reduced by 50 percent and healthcare costs due to work-related injuries reduced by $800,000.
Promotes Teamwork and Collaboration
Wellness programs build a sense of camaraderie among workers. When employees are placed side-by-side in different wellness groups, such as exercise groups, fitness teams, etc. it fosters collaboration between workers, enhancing relationships, which not only promotes their wellbeing but also creates effective workflow.
Some Ideas to Celebrate the Month
Here are a few simple tips to help reinforce wellness in your workplace:
1. Encourage Walking Meetings: Get your workers up and active as they brainstorm ideas and create solutions for the company. Discourage long meetings around a conference table and have your workers walk around the office or in the park for their scheduled meetings. This not only improves their energy levels and blood pressure, it also builds a stronger interpersonal connection.
2. Encourage Naps and Sleep Time: Stress is one of the biggest risk factors of chronic disease, and work-related stress is the major contributor to this. Allow your workers take scheduled breaks for sleep or mindfulness exercises to help them relax. You can also create napping rooms for workers that need them.
3. Encourage Fitness Breaks: Provide discounted gym memberships, allow workers take some minutes off work to stretch, or provide on-site physical activity courses.
4. Change the Menu: Re-evaluate the menu in your cafeteria: Are your employees eating healthy? Replace unhealthy foods such as processed foods, fatty foods, sweetened beverages, and fruit juice with fresh fruits and vegetables. Also organize food wellness programs to educate workers on healthy food choices.
5. Create a Challenge: Races, walk challenges, cycling events etc are fun ways of getting your workers to work together and stay fit. Place workers in different teams to boost their participation and enthusiasm.
6. Promote Goal-Setting: Encourage all employees to set a health and wellness goal for this month. Goals should be measurable, specific, and achievable: for instance, walk 20 minutes every day; burn 1,200 calories every day, exercise four times a week to lose a specific amount of weight every week etc.
7. Signposts: Post necessary signs at strategic points in your workplace: signs at the elevator to encourage workers to take the stairs instead, signs to promote smoke cessation etc.
8. Provide Health Information Regularly: You could mail health tips to them in your weekly newsletter, paste it on the noticeboard, or invite experts to provide health talks on healthy lifestyle and behavioral habits.
In the end, whatever you do to promote health and wellness is fair game! In this National Employee Wellness Month, re-evaluate your wellness programs, reignite the passion for wellness in your company, and reinforce proven strategies to maintain a healthy work environment. Remember, healthy workers make a healthy and productive workforce.