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Wellness Program: Improve Employee Wellness through Emotional Health Techniques

5 Ways to Assess and Improve Your Employees’ Health

Emotional health is a state of wellness that comes from understanding and acknowledging our emotions and locating appropriate ways to express them.

As staff, we often bring emotional problems from our childhood or current family life into the workplace because we haven’t dealt with them effectively outside of work.

This can seriously damage worksite relationships and lead to poor performance and negative feelings all around.

A lot of tools and techniques exist for assisting us improve our emotional health. Some of the most common are given below, with real-life case histories illustrating their use.

When an unpleasant mood or feeling persists over a length of time, do not hesitate to seek out a certified professional. Wellness programs normally have professional support already in place as part of their services.

1. Wellness Coaching -

Among the hallmarks of emotional health is the willingness to ask for help when we need it.

Confidential specialist help, the coaching and counseling provided by employee assistance or wellness programs, can provide an external source of strength and insight for “working out” emotionally-based problems in lieu of “working them in” to your job.

2. Self-help Groups -

Self-help groups are designed to aid individuals  in emotional situations in which they feel alone.  The purpose of these groups is twofold –  to allow individuals  to safely feel and express their emotions, and to help break their isolation at work and/or in society at large and reintegrate them into society with the support of a coworker group.

The classic self-help group is Alcoholics Anonymous, but thanks to technology, it’s possible to connect with others that have common health challenges, no matter how unique the situation.

Exan Wellness, for example, offers teleconference cell groups and moderated wellness forums for interacting with others in a supportive, confidential and anonymous environment.

People  with shared challenges get together and discuss the emotional challenges they’re facing at work or in other areas of their lives and work through change together.

3. Journaling –  Journaling is usually recommended by counselors as a way to help identify and process emotions. Individuals  record their emotions in writing as they experience them, in no matter what form they wish.

By assisting the writer gain greater emotional clarity, journaling can help in making more emotionally informed decisions. In much the same way, letter writing enables people  to identify and process the emotions they feel in relation to others.

The letter does not have to be sent or its contents shared –  it simply provides a place for the expression of feelings.

An 18-year-old “army brat,” Brent has always done well at school, academically and athletically. But in his last year of high school, something seems to have happened to him. He has lost all interest in school, becoming moody and withdrawn.

Brent describes to his guidance counselor all the times he had to move when he was growing up. Each move wrenched him from his friends and forced him to play the role of the “new kid on the block.”

The counselor suggests that Brent write letters to the friends he has missed over the years telling them how he felt. Lastly, he has a chance to say a proper goodbye.

4. Assess Your Emotional Health – Companies that seek to increase employees’ interpersonal skills, or emotional intelligence in the worksite are more successful, according to ground-breaking journalist Daniel Goleman.

And emotional intelligence is the buzzword in workplaces these days. Some health promotion programs have information about emotional intelligence, or emotional health assessments. Seek out more information about emotional intelligence for better corporate health promotion.

5. Friendships/Support Systems –  Friendships allow individuals  to feel supported in their emotional journeys.  At the same time, they give individuals  an opportunity to develop their empathetic skills.

These skills are also important for workplace health. When we’re empathic with fellow personnel, we help them resolve negative or unhealthful emotions. New friendships are made through hobbies, classes, clubs, or even through web-based groups.

Many people  are finding emotional satisfaction by connecting or re-connecting with friends through Facebook and other social web sites.

Sometimes workplace stress that is not dealt with in a healthful manner could be brought home. A 36-year-old mother of three, Sarah, wants to be a good wife, a good mother, and a success at her job.

One day, drained after a long day at work, she shouted at her rambunctious children and threatened to hit her youngest son. Her behavior horrified her.  To make matters worse, she believes she’s a failure at her job as well as at motherhood. She watches with jealousy as younger coworkers advance much more quickly up the corporate ladder despite having less experience than she has.

On the advice of a counselor, she determines to take time out for herself and take a course for amateur painters. It doesn’t take long before she strikes up a friendship with a single mom in the class.

She once led a life very similar to Sarah’s before managing to achieve a better balance between work and family. Her new friend becomes a much-needed sounding board for Sarah and offers her perspectives on her life that she had not considered before.

Addiction is an ever-present concern for employers and families alike.  Statistics show that sober workers are 33% more productive than their non-sober counterparts.   We found a great Guide to Employee Interventions which we wanted to pass along for your consideration.

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Wellness Program : Building a Health Promotion Program.

There’s no single right way to approach wellness programs but winning wellness programs share common success factors. These include commitment from management, worker involvement, adequate resources, and a policy concerning health that goes hand in hand with the corporation’s mission, vision and values.

Health Promotion Program –  A Range of Approaches

Even though the goal is to eventually have a long-term, extensive health promotion program, some corporations prefer to begin with a single program at a basic level.

For  instance, the first steps may be as simple as offering lunch-hour sessions on first aid or healthy eating; or they could launch a pilot project to find out how interested staff are to ensure staff needs are being met before taking on anything more ambitious.

This approach provides a chance to show the impact on staff and the workplace so senior management will be more willing to consider a bigger and more far-reaching strategy.

Other businesses plan a selection of wellness programs to meet the needs of the different types of people  that make up their workforce.  And some decide to develop a sound company case, complete with a health strategy, before attempting any kind of wellness program.

Corporations want to ensure that a new health promotion program is fully integrated with their overall business vision and mission.

Wellness Program –  Success Factors

Whether your corporation chooses to think large from the outset or to start with something smaller, always keep in mind the following key success factors -

  • support and participation from management;
  • worker involvement in planning;
  • health promotion programs that meet worker needs;
  • A realistic budget; and
  • continuous review.

In sports, a game plan is a series of steps that a team must follow to accomplish its goal of winning. Most winning teams plan to win. Organizations also need game plans, even when they don’t call them by that name.

Good planning will help to ensure that your wellness program happens the way you want it to, and that costs could be identified in advance and kept within budget. Good planning avoids small problems from becoming bigger.

Steps in Developing a Wellness Program

Obtain senior level management support. You might need to develop a corporation case to convince managers that the health promotion program is a corporation strategy-that staff member health and job satisfaction affects their productivity. Workers need to see evidence that senior level management believes in and is committed to staff member health.

Establish a planning committee. Members can include representatives from staff member groups in addition to from human resources, safety and health, and communications.

Collect information.  To prove that your health promotion program is beneficial, establish a benchmark before the health promotion program starts. You could wish to look at staff member satisfaction, absenteeism rates, stress levels, drug costs or WCB expenditures.

Assess what worksite facilities are available to support personnel to make healthful options like showers and change areas or a secure place to store a bicycle. Assess employee needs through a recent survey or questionnaire, suggestion box or focus group. Communicate the results.

Develop the plan to reflect the information collected. Include health promotion program goals, activities and how you’re going to measure whether your goals were met.

Keep the plan flexible. You might have to change direction in response to worker feedback or changes in the company’s structure.

Get upper management approval. Support for staff time and a budget are needed.

Put activities in place. Give a selection of activities that create awareness, increase knowledge, create skills, and provide social interaction.

Activities could include walking clubs, participation in national campaigns such as Employee Wellness Week, Summer active program, Winter active program, corporate challenge, golf days, and newsletters that provide information about community resources.

Worksites can also make it easier for staff members to make healthy choices by providing flextime to allow staff members to fit activity in when it is convenient or by subsidizing wellness programs in cooperation with community or private fitness facilities. A policy on catering for meetings can ensure that healthy foods are offered.

Evaluate the plan. Share your successes with others, learn from your mistakes and modify activities.

A health promotion program doesn’t have to be complicated or a immense investment. Just do it. Get support from management, bring a few committed individuals  together to generate some ideas and get started.

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Wellness Program : Wellness Program Needs and Interest Survey.

Successful health promotion programs are designed to meet the needs and interests of the staff members. Ask staff members what they are interested in, and what needs they have.

People  are more willing to participate and support wellness efforts when they are involved in the decision-making process. Review the sample employee survey provided below.

Staff Member Interest Survey – can be edited (http – //www.ibx.com/pdfs/custom/worksite_wellness/corporation_tools/employee_interest_survey.doc)

When developing a recent survey, keep the following hints in mind –

• Ask mostly closed form questions, particularly if you’ll be sending the survey to a big number of employees. Closed form questions provide specific choices and are easy to tabulate.

• Invite comments, suggestions and recommendations, or ask open-ended questions after the survey. Open-ended items are more difficult to summarize.

• Include a brief explanatory cover letter with the survey with the signature of the business president. Make certain to include a statement about confidentiality and anonymity.

• Ask a group of representative personnel to review the survey before it’s distributed. Find out when the questions will be understood by personnel and will not be objected to.

• Include demographic information at the starting, or end of the survey (gender, age, shift, site, department, etc.).

• Conduct a random drawing for a valued incentive item for all those who returned the survey. This could increase the response rate.

One rule to consider concerning surveys is if you have fewer than 500 employees, everybody should receive one.  The advantage of everybody receiving a recent survey could be significant. If you have over 500 employees, a sample of the work population from each department will suffice.

The higher the response, the more exact and reliable the results. A minimum response of 40 percent to 50 percent is considered valuable.

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Wellness Program : Establish a Health Promotion Program Committee.

A vital first step in organizing your company’s health promotion program is the formation of a wellness committee.  The focus of the wellness committee is to plan, promote, and implement the health promotion program.

The committee establishes continuity, motivation, and wide ownership of the wellness program in addition to provides an excellent car for communication.

So who must be on the committee? Consider appointing the following people /departments to your committee –

• upper-level management within your organization

• Union representatives

• Human resources (HR)  department

• Employee assistance program

• Information technology

• Communications

• Health and safety department

• Staff Members interested in wellness

Building a successful wellness program requires staff time in addition to money. Some larger corporations may spend 20 hours per week for three to six months preparing all the steps before launching a wellness program.

Anywhere from 4 to 10 individuals  meeting monthly equals a wellness committee. A mission statement for the committee ought to be created by the second meeting. This way, everyone knows what the committee is working toward.

Once a wellness program has been established, the committee’s size and meeting schedule may change. Still, no fewer than 4 members ought to meet at least quarterly so the group – and the wellness program – doesn’t fade away.

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Wellness Program : Wellness Program – Obtaining Management Support.

Support from upper management is essential to building a successful wellness program! Visible upper management support is one of the most crucial factors in the success of a workplace Health Promotion Program.

Senior level management executives are responsible for making sure that the business meets its goals. They can provide additional assistance by assisting you to link your Wellness Program goals to business outcomes, thereby positioning Wellness Program as a fundamental part of the business.

It’s imperative that you develop support and excitement for the health promotion program from all levels of the organization including upper-level management, mid-level management, and grass-root staff.

The challenge for any Wellness Program coordinator is convincing senior management about the potential value of Wellness Program to the corporation and conceptualizing how wellness programs can impact the corporation in a meaningful manner.

The American Journal of Health Promotion is a great resource to assist you with obtaining convincing information on the advantages of a Health Promotion Program.

Health Promotion Program support from executive management can come in many different ways –

• Involvement in the planning process

• Distribution of funding for the health promotion program

• Support for time given to the wellness program

• Participation in wellness events

• Leadership by management, such as the distribution of a letter of support for the wellness program.

• Download a sample letter requesting upper-level management support. (http – //www.ibx.com/pdfs/custom/workplace_wellness/corporation_tools/sr_mgt_support.doc)

• Flexibility of employee schedules to accommodate wellness activities

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Wellness Program : Wellness Program – Conducting an Organizational Assessment.

The first step in developing your wellness/Wellness Program is to understand your company and how Wellness Program will fit into the current structure.

By researching your organization’s history with similar health promotion programs and eliciting feedback from peers, you can find the best solution for your organization.

Health Promotion Program –  Research Questions

• Find out when Health Promotion Program has been done in the past. If so, what worked and what did not?

• Was it commonly accepted?

• Was health promotion programming successful? Why or why not?

• What does your corporation hope to gain from beginning a Health Promotion Program?

Answers to these questions will help you begin the process of building a culture of wellness within your company. It’s very important that you assess the environment before beginning a health promotion program.

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Wellness Program : Advantages of Wellness Programs.

The costs of healthcare have been rising more than 10% each year for a few years. A substantial amount of the money spent in the healthcare system treats costly illnesses and illnesses.

• Approximately 95 percent of the $1.4 trillion that we spend as a nation on health goes to direct medical services, while about 5 percent is allocated to preventing disease and promoting health.

• Potentially, 50 percent to 70 percent of all diseases are preventable as they are associated with modifiable health risks.

• In an effort to optimize employee health, reduce avoidable health care utilization and enhance work performance, and in turn lower health care costs and improve employee satisfaction and retention, many companies are developing, or are interested in developing, Health Promotion Programs for employees.

The benefits of company health promotion are well documented. More than 120 research repeatedly show themes like improvements in health outcomes coupled with high Return On Investment. Some major findings include the following –

• Savings of $3.48 in lowered health care costs per dollar invested.

• Savings of $5.82 in decrease rates of absenteeism costs per dollar invested.

• ROIs of at least $3 to $8 per dollar invested within five years of wellness program implementation.

• Lifestyle behavior modification programs –  $3 to $6 Return On Investment within 2 to 5 years.

• Self care, decision support health promotion programs –  $2 to $3 Return On Investment within a year.

• Illness management programs –  $7 to $10 Return On Investment within a year.

By offering wellness programs, businesss are not only providing an additional service for staff members, but they are also gaining financially. Further, the impact of a wellness program goes beyond reduced health care cost and ROI.

A wellness program can affect productivity, absenteeism, morale, recruitment success, turnover, and medical care costs.

* Source –  Rees, C., and Finch, R. (2004). Health Improvement –  A comprehensive guide to designing, implementing and assessing wellness programs. National Business Group on Health, 1 (1), 1-7.

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Wellness Program : What is a Wellness Program?

According to the American Journal of Wellness, “Wellness is the science and art of assisting individuals  change their lifestyle to move toward a state of optimal health.

Optimal health is defined as a balance of physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual health. Lifestyle change could be facilitated through a combination of efforts to enhance awareness, change behavior, and develop environments that support good health practices.

Of the three, supportive environments will probably have the greatest impact in producing lasting change.”

Health Promotion Program –  Action Steps

The process of building a Health Promotion Program involves –

• Identifying the current health status of your personnel

• Decidingthe appropriate health promotion programs and interventions to offer

• Marketing and beginning the health promotion programs

• Building in motivational incentives

• Measuring the impact

• Revising health promotion programs based on evaluation outcomes

It might even include developing policies and procedures that support staff member participation in wellness activities at your workplace (like flextime).

Steps to Starting a Health Promotion Program

• Conduct an organizational assessment

• Obtain senior management support

• Launch a wellness committee

• Get staff member input

• Create goals and goals

• Create and implement wellness program activities

• Select incentives

• Assess outcomes

Among the ways the government plans to improve the nation’s health is through robust Wellness Programs.

According to the USA Department of Health and Human Services, these wellness programs might help workers live healthier life choices by building supportive work environments and offering awareness, education and behavior modification programs.

In fact, among the goals of Healthful Individuals  2010, a set of health goals for the nation to achieve by the year 2010, is to increase the proportion of personnel that participate in a extensive Health Promotion Program at their workplace to 75 percent.

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Wellness Program : Wellness Programs Now as Important as Cost and Workforce Issues.

25 percent Jump in Corporation Interest in Employee Wellness

Corporate health promotion for their workers, companys are discovering, is good for the health of their businesses as well. Wellness programs help to cut the costs associated with poor employee health, which include absenteeism, loss of productivity and poor work quality.

A recent Hewitt Associates survey of over 500 USA businesses indicated a meaningful paradigm shift in how businesses view health benefits for their employees.

Of those surveyed this year, 88 percent are committed to instituting long-term health care assistance programs (over the next 3-5 years) for their workers, with the goal of increaseing the health and productivity of their workforce. This represents a 25 percent increase in interest in wellness programs over 2007.

A strong offering of health promotion programs to meet the demand has resulted. Health assistance providers have broadened their health promotion programs with tools that address general lifestyle factors, physical, social and psychological health factors.

Programs look to predict chronic illness in their staff members and give them the tools and the information to prevent it. Corporations also demand a way to measure the effectiveness of their health care spending.

Self-care is our motive, says Vic Lebouthillier, president of progressive wellness provider Exan Wellness.”We really believe giving workers tools to help them manage their own health, and promoting the benefits, while giving individuals  resources to reach out for help is the key to successful lifestyle change.

Companies are also telling us they need a cost-effective way to deliver wellness programs.  The type of wellness program we’ve created over years delivers the highest healthcare return on investment.”

Combining employee wellness promotions, online assessments and health trackers, online medical information, telephone conferences and self-help groups, and access to a broad variety of health specialists, is behind the success of the Exan wellness program. “Having online statistics about employees’ health also makes it easier to track the bottom line – ROI” says Vic Lebouthillier.

Corporations are moving beyond their traditional role as a provider of healthcare benefits to develop holistic wellness programs that pinpoint the specific health needs of their worker populations, drive worker behavior change and eliminate barriers to healthcare, says Jim Winkler, leader of Hewitt’s health management consulting practice.

However, in a separate survey of 30,000 personnel, 74% said that, although they felt their corporation had an obligation to help them understand how to use their health benefits program, only 12% felt the corporation had any right to tell them how to be healthy.

Based on these results, companys need to drive home the fact that improved health is better for their staff as well as the organization. It’s a win-win situation.

Employers and workforce did find common ground when it came to future health care. Both surveys indicate that 95% of workforce understand that their taking care of their health today will impact future health care payments.

A similar percentage also understand the important of early detection and prevention when it comes to saving on healthcare costs.

Cost is important for most businesses as well. Over 80 percent of those surveyed made cost mitigation a priority for 2008, but those cuts didn’t involve shifting responsibility for healthcare onto workforce.

While 64% of businesses have shifted costs to their workers, only 17% plan to do so in the next 3-5 years. Similarly with health reimbursement accounts, 20% now offer these, but only about 5% plan to use them in 2008.

These survey leads todicate businesses are getting more proactive in helping their staff members to change behaviors and take ownership of their own health futures. This is obviously good for the wellness of staff members, but also for the wellness of the businesses they work for.

Nearly half the corporations surveyed were convinced that changing health behaviors was key to increased productivity and lower absentee rates. Over 60% plan to institute health promotion programs that help workers change and/or sustain a healthier lifestyle.

Nearly of these businesses will also use data and measurements to ensure their health care strategies meet their health care objectives?

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Wellness Program : Employee Wellness and Effective Healthcare Reform.

It’s clear to virtually every American (especially those of us in business) that health care costs are skyrocketing out of control.

No one doubts that either the market will solve the problem OR the government will impose one on us. Managed care has failed from either a cost containment or quality of care perspective.

Businesses have reached the point where the cost of providing health insurance is nearly as burdensome as government regulation. It is time for some new thinking on health care and its impact on company and vice versa.

Corporate health promotion as an operational perspective in lieu of merely window dressing is one way to deal effectively with rising healthcare costs.

The Insurance Problem

The first step in correcting the problem is to realize that an worker’s health is their own responsibility. Expecting businesss to provide unlimited health insurance coverage is simply unrealistic and unreasonable.

It is time for employers (on a broad scale) to reconsider their role in providing health insurance coverage. Instead of providing complete coverage for all personnel through group plans, corporations should start to shift the burden of health coverage to those covered.

Here is the approach. Give catastrophic medical insurance as a group benefit to all personnel with a large enough deductible (say $5000 per employee) to make the cost affordable for the company.

Then, allow employees to purchase their own health insurance policies (based on their own needs) and pay for them through payroll deduction with pre-tax earnings.

There are numerous insurance corporations that sell individual plans on this basis. Everybody wins. Workers can tailor their coverage to their own needs and circumstances using their own doctors. Corporations win by stopping the endless cycle of rising costs and ever-changing plans.

And when person become responsible for the cost of their own insurance, they become more attentive to their own health.

Besides, if an staff member is interested in working for you ONLY because your organization offers great insurance benefits aren’t they telling you they are going to cost you more money in the future?

Create a “Wellness Culture”

Our current “sickness culture” perpetuates the health care crisis and hastens the demise of market-based solutions. By ailment culture, I mean our focus on health problems instead of on having a healthful workplace and performance culture.

So, what’d a “wellness culture” look like? First, in lieu of paid sick days, employees might  be rewarded at year’s end with an attendance bonus.

Employees would be reimbursed for successful completion of use of tobacco cessation and weight-loss programs. Companies would invest in corporate memberships at local fitness clubs so every staff member can participate.

Staff Members would be offered in-house health promotion programs on a selection of issues ranging from ergonomics to stress management. Finally, organizations would commit to hiring and retaining healthful staff members.

Simply put, healthful employees cost less and are more productive than unhealthful ones. Applicants must be screened for health habits and practices that limit their productivity and increase the likelihood of future expense.

While this may seem harsh, it rewards those employees whose personal lifestyle and habits ensure the best Return on Investment by the company committing to hire, train and pay them.

Be open to “alternative and complementary” approaches

Studies published in major medical journals reveal that individuals who use “alternative and complementary” health modalities (including chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga and massage) are ordinarily healthier, better educated, take fewer medications and miss fewer days from work than the average American.

Since these person look for ways to stay healthy without drugs and surgery, they end up being a net benefit respecting attendance and productivity. Old prejudices in this area ought to be discarded in order for corporations to improve productivity and increase profitability

Conclusion

Healthcare costs are increasing at a staggering pace. Managed care is an dreadful failure. Organizations are buckling below the pressure of providing health coverage to their workers.

American competitiveness in the market is sagging. These times call for incredible solutions. It’s time for American corporations to consider some out-of-the-box solutions to the health care crisis.

Company wellness is an approach that is timely, achievable and reasonable given the alternatives. All options ought to be considered while we still have a chance.

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Wellness Program : Wellness Programs.

Research spanning more than a decade has consistently shown health promotion programs to be financially effective and that every dollar invested on a health promotion program can return $2.30 and $10.10 by lowering absenteeism, sick day usage and by decreasing insurance costs.

Moreover it’s noted that there are marked improvements in staff member performance and productivity in businesses that implement a health promotion program.

Healthy organizations enjoy increased staff member morale and an improved ability to attract and retain key people . Additionally, workers are more alert and productive.

For  instance, Coca Cola reports that they save about $500 a year per employee once they implemented a fitness plan in which 60% of their employees participate.

Coors Brewing Company announced that workforce who participated in their wellness programs lowered their absentee rate by 18 percent.

Staff Members enjoy their share of benefits from wellness programs too. A healthful lifestyle affects every part of a person’s life, including their work environment.

Wellness programs lead to fewer injuries, less human error and a work environment that is more harmonious and relaxed. Additionally, workers who work at a company that starts a wellness program know that their company is concerned about their wellness.

Staff Members often report a reduction in their stress levels because of health promotion programs.

As staff members feel better, more relaxed, more valued and more human to their company; they enjoy an increase in productivity. This increase in productivity, while beneficial to the business, is also essential to the employee as it increases their own sense of self worth and confidence levels.

Staff Members who feel successful and who feel that they accomplish goals are overall happier and in a better frame of mind.

The benefits of health promotion programs, both tangible and intangible, are evident. It is a wise move for a company to implement a health promotion program, in particular when they incorporate some form of mental health aspect into it.

This also has social benefits as domestic violence and child abuse is shown to be reduced in areas where health promotion programs are implemented. These days, an organization can almost not afford to have some sort of health promotion program to offer to their employees.

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