Promote Better Health in the Workplace

Wellness programs may offer benefits

Take notice of these statistics: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults are considered obese. In 2008, the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion U.S. dollars, while the medical costs for obese people were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight people.

As concerns about the overall health of workers continue to grow, some companies are turning to wellness programs to help employees improve their health. The benefits can range from reducing employee health insurance claims, to reducing turnover, to simply boosting morale in the workplace. A wellness program can also save your company money through lower health insurance costs and higher productivity from the workforce.

Due to budgetary restraints, you may need to produce maximum results with just a minimum outlay. Here are several steps that might prove beneficial:

  • Encourage employees to be physically active. This can be as simple and low cost as starting a “walking club” at lunch. Similarly, a company can provide discounts or some other enticement for using a local gym or fitness center, assuming there is not one on the premises.
  • Provide rewards for participation. Typically, a company may offer employees a reduction in health insurance premiums based on participation in various health-related initiatives or offer incentives to join a gym. Employees may not immediately jump on the bandwagon.
  • Educate employees. For instance, a smoking cessation workshop may help employees curtail smoking activities or end them completely. Employees who attempt to quit smoking are usually on the honor system, but having others to talk to may help. Smoking on business premises should be banned, if it’s not already mandated.
  • Stock vending machines with nutritious foods. Do away with those that offer fattening snacks or high-calorie drinks. If your supplier won’t go along with your plan, consider another vendor. This will show employees that you are truly committed to the cause.
  • Conduct regular health screenings. Screenings might take place on an annual or even quarterly basis. A qualified health care professional can check each worker’s weight, blood pressure, body fat, flexibility, etc. Then have the results reviewed by the appointed wellness program manager. Set individual goals based on these findings.

The cost of such a wellness program can vary widely depending on certain factors, such as the size and location of your company. For example, if you can benefit from a plan that costs $50 per employee a year and you have only 20 employees, the annual cost is limited to $1,000 a year. This is palatable for many small companies.

Of course, there are no guarantees, and some commentators claim that wellness programs often provide little benefit. Do the homework to determine if such a program makes sense for your small business.

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