Good for waistlines & your bottom line
By Sandra Simpson, APRN, BC, COHN-S, manager in Occupational Health Services at a Fortune 500 company in Memphis, Tenn., and a member of the board of directors of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN). For a copy of the AAOHN wellness survey, visit www.aaohn.org, or call (800) 241-8014, x0.
In today’s hectic world, most of us are spending more time at work, and have increasingly less time to look after our health. For a long time, employers have understood the benefits associated with keeping workers well – increased productivity from decreased rates of absence and lowered disability claims. For these reasons, coupled with the fact that many businesses realized double-digit healthcare costs last year, businesses should consider Employee Health and Wellness Programs as a way to keep staff members healthy.
But just how important are these initiatives to staff members? How often are they willing to participate in initiatives designed to positively impact their health and wellness? Who do staff members trust to provide them with important information about their health?
Answers to these questions and more were recently garnered from a study commissioned by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN).
The AAOHN survey questioned 500 staff members nationwide about their perceptions of Employee Health and Wellness Programs. More than three-quarters of all members indicated these initiatives are a good way to improve their overall health, and nearly 60 percent consider these offerings an incentive to remain with their current employer. worker retention and turnover impact the bottom line, so building Employee Health and Wellness Programs into the work site culture is a valuable way to help retain talented staff members in addition to enhancing personal health and workplace productivity.
Health wish list
Employees appear to have their own agenda when it comes to their health. With new pressures resulting from an unstable economy, national security threats and work/balance issues, it’s not surprising that 85 percent of survey respondents cited Stress Management Programs as a priority topic for work site wellness.
In addition to stress, other preferred topic areas include testing initiatives (84 percent), exercise/physical fitness initiatives (84 percent), medical insurance education (81 percent) and disease management lunch and learns (80 percent).
In addition to lifestyle and personal health issues, those asked expressed concern about work-related health issues, including strains and injuries resulting from lifting or task-oriented muscle repetition, exposure to harmful substances, personal injury, vision changes due to computer work and workplace violence.
What you should do
With such a broad range of health concerns, a primary goal for employers is finding a way to proactively address the health needs of the largest number of staff members, and effectively change unhealthy behaviors, promote wellness and ward off disease and illness.
Printed materials such as brochures, posters, fliers or pamphlets present an easy solution. But it’s important to remember that different individuals require different formats for learning. A good rule of thumb: provide information in a variety of learning formats such as videos, pamphlets, health-related quizzes, display boards, lunch-and-learn presentations and reimbursement or incentive programs.
This assumes you’ve overcome the first hurdle – getting individuals to sign on to a Employee Health and Wellness Program. While survey respondents indicated health and Employee Health and Wellness Programs are important, just six out of 10 (60 percent) reported that they participated in the Employee Health and Wellness Programs at their businesses. The other 40 percent cited lack of interest and lack of time as deterrents.
This points to the need for a comprehensive, structured Employee Health and Wellness Program using a creative approach, with an incentive for participation and effective program marketing.
By investing in an organized Employee Health and Wellness Program headed by a qualified healthcare professional such as an worksite nurse, businesses can give staff members the access to the health information they want, and increase participation and generate interest at the same time.
The result: staff members become savvier healthcare consumers who feel more in charge of their personal health. And healthier staff members make for a healthier bottom line.