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The importance of participating in corporate wellness programs

May 03, 2016 by Lindsay Racen

As employees we tend to focus on the goals designated to our department and can lose touch of the importance of applying systems thinking tactics to improve our organizations overall. Every company should have a corporate wellness program that contributes to the betterment of the employees. Of course our human resources department knows this, but if we are on the other end of the office do we understand the importance of this simple fact? The reality is that sometimes we forget and we need to work towards participating rather than simply recognizing that the programs exist.

What is corporate wellness?

The concept has developed over many years and is based on socio-economic conditions. Companies were looking into ways that could reduce health care expenses they were paying to their employees and others wanted to ensure that the work environment was positive to the health of their employees. There are many studies that prove that when employees are healthy, they are happier, feel more secure and are more productive. Although there are many types of programs, the variations tend to follow the categories of wellness that we often consider when pursuing for a well-rounded healthy lifestyle.

  • Physical Programs – Some examples of ways that companies can promote physical wellness include providing resources such as on site fitness classes, ergonomic work stations, stretch breaks, fitness fairs, maps of biking and running trails near the office, reimbursement or incentives for gym membership, and promoting community charity runs. University of Massachusetts Global for example gave every employee a pedometer and encouraged employees to team up to reach a certain distance within a given period of time. The outcomes were positive and got people excited to get up and moving.
  • Spiritual Programs – This category is often approached with caution by some public entities that want to ensure clear separation of church and state, but it does not have to be this way. Even the most traditional, politically correct organization can implement spiritual health programs such as hosting meditation workshops, running campaigns that encourage random acts of kindness, and building out charitable partnerships in the community for employees to donate directly to good causes.
  • Intellectual Programs – These types of programs often align with our desires to be lifelong learners and improve ourselves both professionally and personally. Organizations can offer resources like training courses, events for employees to learn from prominent guest speakers, quiz bowls or trivia contests, and distribute materials educating people on the importance of mental fitness.
  • Social Programs – Communication is one of the most important elements that contributes to efficient and effective work environments. Some examples of social wellness programs may be things like sponsoring community events, holding “work and families day” where loved ones can tour the work site, engage in regular team building activities, mentoring opportunities and creating cross-functional teams.
  • Emotional Programs – Similarly to the spiritual category, we sometimes find that expressing emotion at work can be unprofessional, but in all truth it can be a great thing. Emotional programs can drastically reduce stress at work and may include initiatives such as time or anxiety management programs, journaling workshops, employee assistance programs and support groups.
  • Occupational Programs – As with any situation that involves educating workers on specific topics, building out systematic occupational health programs are essential and can often be connected to the outcomes of activities in the physical health category. Some basic types may include short work breaks, CPR training, emergency preparedness, benefits program training during new hire orientation and safety committee meetings.

There is no single corporate wellness program that provides a solution for every organization. It is important to remember that companies are made up of people, and different individuals have varying needs. Human resource departments must find the right combination of services to fit the organization’s culture and specific dynamics.

Work wellness: Why and how to get involved?

Corporate wellness cannot be treated as a quick fix, and the perfect situation cannot be easily found in a single source. Human capital is what drives the success of any business and it is the same for all wellness programs. The HR department may provide amazing services and resources for us, but if we as employees are not involved with these solutions, they will never be successful. Here are five things for employers and employees to keep in mind when implementing or evaluating their current programs:

  • A higher level awareness is essential to success – As Americans, we are becoming more and more health conscious and the continuous improvement in our well being in the workplace is essential. As employees, we need to be engaged and motivated in workplace programs then be servant leaders to our peers by promoting their involvement as well. After all, preventable wellness is a complete lifestyle and behavior change and ultimately takes time and commitment to become a reality.
  • Take preventable action – According to the Center for Disease Control, chronic diseases account for 75 percent of total health care costs and are also the most preventable types. The organization as a whole needs to create programs that consistently educate employees about health situations and create layers of accountability throughout the system. As individuals, by committing to these teachings mentally, emotionally and socially on a conscience level, we can be a part of the cultural progress.
  • Don’t be afraid to be creative – Sometimes tasks are just items to check off of a list, but at other times the outcomes of our work can make a lasting impact on others. Engaging in wellness programs should never be boring and programs must evolve over time to ensure the needs of the workforce are being met. Employees need to be challenged and stimulated in different ways and different means in order to create change. Don’t be afraid to suggest enhancements to your supervisor or benefits office in order to bring fresh ideas to the table.
  • Combat rising health care costs – This one is more for the HR department and is the longest standing challenge for companies and government entities. With health care costs rising year after year, employers may not be able to shoulder the weight and as a result are often passing the costs on to their employees through higher fees. But the fact is that healthier employees can actually contribute to their own bottom line. In some cases, solutions have already come in the form of lowering employees contributions with rebates if they participate in a wellness program.
  • Prepare for the long haul – The success of corporate wellness is driven by the unique strategy behind it and involves developing a framework that outlines short and long-term goals for the employee and the employer. The initiative needs support, leadership, and commitment from vendors, the company and workers and ultimately becomes integrated in the fabric of the organization’s culture.

The bottom line

Joshua Love, president of Kinema Fitness, challenges both employers and employees to think differently about wellness and what it means to them in his Forbes article that contributed to many of the concepts addressed in this post exclaiming, “When we actually think about what needs to take place, it seems fairly straightforward. However, the challenge lies in the execution. Behavior modification takes time and is different from person to person. It is possible, when reinforced consistently with different programs, multiple touch points, strong leadership and an unwavering commitment.

If the end goal is healthier employees, then both parties need to be involved to share this common vision.”



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