Health and wellness ideas in the workplace

Recent health survey of Comcast employees shows a drop in the number of employees suffering from chronic disease. Employees who are diabetic and have high blood pressure, declined significantly. It seems like the company’s investment of $500 million on health care, pays off.

Developed countries spend their 9 to 12% of GDP on health infrastructure and asked the country’s company to develop wellness programs as an integral part of their target. Healthy employees cost less to company over an unhealthy one. Few doctors performed experiments on some 100 employees at one company. All 100 employees were healthy and were not suffering from any kind of mental disorders. They were given a one month complete psychological training program. After one month they were tested and it was found that the chance of neurological problems in future dropped by 67%. This will eventually save the company’s health claim investment. At another company after organising health camps at regular intervals also seen that employees absenteeism decreased by 80 to 85% and employee’s health insurance premium dropped by 52%.

A study by Johns Hopkins university and Yale university shows that wellness programs drop voluntary absenteeism. In 2009 walmart saw 20% people are taking voluntary retirement from their jobs. After employing several health programs this data came down to 9% in 2015. To understand better at the corporate level, few organisations in different fields were analysed including CEO and CFO. We asked them what worked for them and what not in the wellness program. Based on the analysis we identified 6 important pillars for the success of wellness programs.

Pillar 1: Decentralized  monitoring

It is easy to locate employees who are not interested in health camps by giving several excuses like lack of time, no liking for exercise, little or no benefit of it.  Enriching their mind about health benefits need time, persistence, and dedication. Though employees’ good health means company high profit margin, still money can’t attract employees for health camps. John Holmes, CEO of Capcom, when he visited employees, he first asked employees about their health. Middle managers are closer to employees,  therefore they can easily convey the idea of healthy living among employees and for that clear strategy and analytical skills are required to give performance based results. Pfizer US based company worked incredibly wonderfully by organising monthly seminars, workshops, inviting guests for camps for their 475 branches across the globe.

Pillar 2 :Orientation

Introducing wellness programs and maintaining it for a long needs commitment, because as priority shifts health gets ignored. So making it  a culture is important because culture takes time to get forgotten. Companies can make employee’s everyday routine by saying it as a ‘healthy break’ or ‘guaranteed return’, so that more and more employees  participate. Companies must explain the motive behind it more clearly so that employees’ engagement increases. The way George introduced the wellness program caused chaos and doubts in the minds of employees and if they don’t have clarity  they will push it back. So George had to hire professionals which caused 89% increased participation from employees. He clearly gave a clear explanation about the wellness program. The reason and motive behind it. Because when employees are forced they lose trust and feel offended. You just can’t say another day that smoking is prohibited at the workplace without giving any advance notice & any kind of  assistance to quit it. Likewise how CEO Leo offered a 12% increment in the salary if they pledge to quit tobacco. Training is needed where a company is involved in high risk jobs like meaning, oil refineries, fuel. There you need to establish the idea that one bad habit of yours can take thousands of lives.

Pillar  3: Effectiveness and its scope

Is a wellness program just about diet and being fit? What about anxiety, depression and other kinds of stress employees are suffering from? Wellness programs need to increase their scope by involving these above factors also. Chris Evans for example offered his employees 24 hours assistance whether it is related to personal or professional issues like divorce, lethal sickness, death etc. Companies also make biometric data of their employees which consists of their blood group, glucose in the body BMI, so to analyze their health risk.  Companies need to assist their employees with proper privacy. They must encourage their employees to make active participation in HRA. Aleat cooperation has managed to reach HRA participation of employees above 80%.

Becoming the best place to work requires both Health and wealth cognizance. It requires a workplace  free of tobacco, cigarettes. Organizations that create regular wellness programs, annual checkups, clinical trials, cancer Screening, are more productive. Also never forget the smile of happiness one feels helping others. Providing parks, healthy snacks in the canteen  are also part of the wellness program. In 2009, Calista corporation had organised a step set go competition for one week for employees to foster walking habits in employees.

Pillar 4 :Approachability 

Directors of Accenture once stated that  while creating a fitness centre at the workplace, he thought of all the reasons that might hinder employee participation like opening hours, affordability,  portability etc. Director Linder poll’s explanation of his high employee engagement in health centers is that they tried to keep the center open on weekends and after and before working hours. People who love doing exercise  also attract their co-workers. It has been seen that in Accenture people take time from work and spend it on a treadmill for 10 to 20 minutes. Sprint’s fair has attracted lots of employees. This fair offers free checkups for bones,  cholesterol, B.P, hearing etc. Also seminars on fire diffusion, yoga sessions and many more. 

Pillar 5: Collaboration

Casper and West Elm collaborated to offer cost effective  health programs to their employees. External participation provides better infrastructure, specialized trainers, without any extra investment. Even at small level Pottery Barn and Sherwin WillIams worked together which has covered around 1500 employees providing them with a well designed fitness program for their better metabolic rate and to enhance their immunity.

Pillar 6 : Dissemination

Wellness programs must overcome barriers related to geographical condition, demographic factors, culture sensitivity etc. Fitness scorecard for distant employees, intranet videos, blogs can help communicating effectively. For example, Verizon has uploaded its regular fitness program on e-mail, and other portals.

Wellness can be achieved  through numerous stuff like parks to take 10 minutes of stress free walk, exciting and creative lobby, spiral staircase so that employees avoid elevators. Even though health issues related to hereditary can not be cured but upto certain extent its sevearness can be decreased. Companies have seen that installing health care centres need revenue of $ 10 million or more but its ROI is high. Hence delivering health care services is less expensive. A 2009 study by Ds. Sam wangler highlighted that loss due to absenteeism is 2.5 times higher than medical or fitness center costs.

Several analysis at the workplace showed  that fitness programs in companies are more focused towards money saving over employee wellness. They often overlook employees as an asset in building any firm. Now Is the time for companies to transfer their attention from profit making, and to get engaged in building a healthy culture in the organization.


Author: A.C.

Dr. Chakraborty is a researcher in electronics and has authored numerous articles in the domain. She is also an avid blogger and shares a penchant for domains like technology, business and science.

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