Afit and healthy staff is beneficial to both employers and employees. Healthy workers have lower absenteeism rates, and it’s cheaper to insure a healthy staff. But, a company can’t just flip a switch and make its staff healthy. An effective wellness program must be implemented.
The difficulty comes, however, when trying to select what wellness plan is right for you. Needs will vary depending on the business, and no one plan will be right for each and every person in your organization. But, there are ways to determine what programs will best fit your needs, says Nancy Pokorny, vice president of business development at the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE).
Smart Business spoke with Pokorny about ways to develop effective health and wellness programs in the workplace.
How can companies communicate their wellness programs to their employees?
One of the most effective ways a company can communicate its wellness programs is by integrating the information into avenues like e-mail, voice mail, memos, payroll inserts and staff meetings. Employers should investigate and sign up to receive work site wellness communication materials available through most health insurance carriers. A variety of materials, including brochures, pamphlets, paycheck stuffer templates and posters, are available so employers can simply and effectively highlight the wellness programming available to their employees. By keeping a positive health message in front of employees and educating them on the tools that are available to them, employers ensure that employees know where to turn when they’re ready to make changes in their overall health.
How can health screenings be helpful to a company’s overall wellness bottom line?
Bringing a health screening to the work-place is not only convenient, but it also gives employees the information they need to confirm good overall health and/or to make decisions about health that can impact the quality of their lives and their productivity at work. Many employees don’t know if they are at risk for hypertension, stroke, cardiac disease, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.
Health screenings can often help target these risks. Contact your carrier to determine if it offers these services free of charge and to see if it recommends a specific organization to assist with the screening process. All testing results are provided immediately in a private, confidential setting with the intention that the employees will share the information provided with their primary care physicians.
What are health risk assessments (HRAs), and how can businesses implement them?
In general, HRAs are online questionnaires that inquire about employees’ family history, general health parameters and lifestyle behaviors. Upon completion of an HRA, a summary of the employee’s health risks and lifestyle behaviors will be issued with suggestions on how to reduce the risks for disease. While HRAs are not substitutes for medical histories or medical exams, they are extremely useful in assessing individual and group health risks. Companies can use HRAs as starting points for comprehensive strategies to help their employees get healthier.
Why is it important for businesses to provide smoking cessation programs to employees?
According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tobacco costs U.S. companies $3,388 per year in lost productivity and excess medical expenditures for every employee who uses tobacco. Thus, a tobacco-use cessation treatment program is the single most cost-effective health insurance benefit that companies can provide. Many programs are available free of charge and provide individualized guidance from trained, experienced quit specialists — making people five times more likely to quit for good. The programs usually consist of telephone counseling sessions, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches and a variety of motivational materials.
What specific health management programs can companies share with employees?
Several health management programs provide education and support to employees who are pregnant or diagnosed with a chronic disease. These programs specifically target some of the highest cost drivers in small business health care. Participation is voluntary and there is no out-of-pocket cost to a company or employees. Programs exist for expectant parents, those suffering from depression, those diagnosed with asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart failure or coronary artery disease, and those suffering from musculoskeletal and chronic pain.
How can small businesses engage their employees in wellness initiatives?
Those companies that endorse wellness from the top down and set up structures of accountability for participation achieve success. These companies often promote buddy systems, team competitions and offer incentives to encourage excitement and participation in wellness initiatives.
NANCY POKORNY is the vice president of business development at the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), one of Ohio’s largest small business support organizations. Reach her at email@example.com or (216) 592-2309. Comprised of more than 17,000 members, COSE strives to help small businesses grow and maintain their independence. COSE has a long history of fighting for the rights of all small business owners, whether it’s through group purchasing programs for health care powered by Medical Mutual of Ohio, workers’ compensation or energy, advocating for specific changes in legislation or regulation, or providing a forum and resource for small businesses to connect with and learn from each other.