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Want to Start a Worksite Wellness Program?

There are many different approaches that companies can take to promote workplace wellness. Most workplace wellness programs are designed to encourage employees to take steps to prevent the onset or worsening of a health condition or illness and to adapt healthier lifestyle habits. Getting started is often the most difficult part for employers. Companies should always have a plan, and have an identified wellness coordinator or committee in place to implement the plan. In order to be successful, it is also vital that you have the buy-in and support of your management team.

A workplace wellness program can be an effective tool in slowing the growth of your health care costs. Healthier lifestyles can help create healthier employees, who will in turn be sick less often, miss fewer work days due to illness, and require less medical care. Given the fact that a large part of our adult population spends the majority of their time at work, a wellness program can be an essential part of maintaining healthy workers for the long term.

Where to Start

Before implementing a program, it is important for you to assess the needs of your workforce. One of the most common tools used for assessment is the Health Risk Assessment, or HRA. An HRA is usually a questionnaire that reviews personal lifestyle practices and identifies risk factors. Risk factors can provide a view of chronic conditions and help you target the specific needs of your population.

When choosing an HRA for your company, look for one that includes questions about nutrition practices, exercise habits, smoking history, and questions that address your participants' readiness to change. It is also helpful if there is a medical component to your HRA that includes height, weight, blood pressure and blood tests for cholesterol levels.

Check with your health insurance provider to see if they offer a free or low cost assessment tool. If your HRA includes a medical component, you can partner with your local health care provider for assistance in gathering health information. At ACMC, our Occupational Medicine Department can help! We will come to your place of business to collect blood samples, measure height, weight, and blood pressure at a reduced cost. We will then distribute the confidential results to your employees and can also provide you with aggregate data that will help you chart problem areas for your population. This information can provide you with indicators of the overall health of your workforce and will offer you a general outline of where your biggest health problems lie.

Map Out Your Plan over Time

Make sure that if you are going to start a worksite wellness program you have a plan to offer your employees ongoing support, and the means to follow up and measure the success of your program. If your employees participate in planning sessions, sign up for activities, complete their HRA, etc, but see no follow up, they will likely not be motivated to continue. Management must be willing to lead the effort by setting a positive example and creating an environment that can back up behavioral changes. Your wellness program should be an investment in your employees, and should be integrated into the way you do business.

Additional Health Promotion Ideas

  • Hold Health and Wellness seminars with guest speakers
  • Post wellness information on notice boards in employee lounges
  • Address health and wellness in your company newsletter
  • Develop health policies and procedures
  • Provide healthy food options in vending machines
  • Work with caterers for healthier meal options at company sponsored events
  • Develop marked walking routes both inside and outside your facility
  • Encourage use of stairs rather than elevators
  • Provide locked areas for employee bike storage