Corporate Wellness ~ Healthier Employees Better Performances

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The Japanese call it Karōshi, meaning death by overwork; mostly caused by heart attacks or strokes due to stress. In Japan, this phenomenon was discovered more than 50 years ago, and here in the U.S, a few cases have been noted already.

Work and financial pressures are classified as two of the top stressors for workers all over the world. Sometimes, these two factors are leading employees to health-related disorders such as depression, anger or even suicide.

In terms of metrics, on average, U.S full-time employees spent 8.44 hours a day working in 2009 according to statistics from the U.S Bureau of Labor.

Since the office became an employee’s “second home”, an environment where employees undergo stress and pressure; corporate wellness has emerged around the world as a way to decompress, bringing some balance to ongoing stressful conditions.

Corporate wellness can include a range of facilities and programs inclusive of having a fitness center in the office building, providing preventive medicine to employees or healthier foods at the office cafeterias and food courts.

“It’s essential that employees in America really change the way they think because every minute of the day cannot be consumed with work,” winner of the biggest loser season 2, motivation speaker Pete Thomas said.

As a simple equation, feeling better about yourself makes you feel more confident about what you do. “ Healthier employees are better performers and this in turn impacts the bottom line and makes your company better,” principal Buck Consultant Barry Hall said.

According to Hall, the most important goals for a company with respect to healthcare is reducing the amount of financial resources spent on healthcare and also, keeping their employee productivity up.

The website www.wellnessproposal.com suggests that workplace wellness can reduce absenteeism, reduce and control healthcare costs, improve productivity, reduce injuries and improve employee morale and employee retention.

Today, 60 percent of deaths that occur worldwide are caused by chronic disease, these are preventable, and could be avoided or reduced effectively by corporate wellness program implementation, according to Spa, Wellness Tourism and Corporate Health Consultant Camille Hoheb.

In that way, investing in corporate wellness is an avenue to keeping employees healthy and efficient within the work environment.

DOING IT STRATEGICALLY

As a rule, corporate wellness program results will not happen immediately and overnight. Corporate Wellness is a long path and should be a viewed and incorporated into company operations as a long term goal.

According to Hall, in order to make a corporate wellness plan a success, companies should establish a wellness strategy which addresses these three questions:

  • What are we doing?
  • Why are we doing it?
  • How are we going to know when it’s working?

These questions can appear basic but many companies do not go through this thought process before implementing a corporate wellness plan, according to Hall.

Indeed, to make a corporate wellness plan work to its fullest potential, companies have to advertise the plans amongst their employee base and bring employees along in developing these plans.

INVOLVING YOUR EMPLOYEES

“There is more than a brochure to get a person involved,” Midwest Business Group on Health President and CEO Larry Borress said.

According to Borress, people do have the desire to stay healthy but generally do not trust their employer’s health advice. Employees generally want their physician’s point of view. Knowing that 72% of physicians agree employers should have a role in improving and maintaining the health of their employees with chronic diseases it would be a good option to provide this type of relevant information to physicians about the worksite programs.

Involving employees also includes involving their family members, providing information to them or even including family members in the wellness programs.

Another technique to get an employee more involved in the program is to make the final goal of being healthy and maintaining a healthy well-being – a reward.

Pete Thomas who lost 185 pounds in nine months uses the example of employees who need to lose weight.

“They love to be rewarded, your goal should be rewarding,” Thomas said, adding that his personal goal was to wear a white suit from a TV show when he was losing weight.

WORKSITE WELLNESS PROGRAMS

According to Hoheb, corporate health programs can be divided into five categories: medical, spa, nutrition, fitness and life/balance.

Within the company, health programs can incorporate an array of weight loss or smoking cessation programs, discounts for spas or fitness centers, onsite fitness centers, health coaches, free flu-shots and, healthier cafeteria food and snacks.

In addition, new corporate wellness trends are online wellness tools including online nutrition tips, yoga or fitness instruction. Employees can exercise at work and bring home the many online wellness tools.

CASE EXAMPLES OF KRAFT FOODS COMPANY AND NASA

Kraft Foods Company launched multiple wellness initiatives which were customized by country within the multinational’s network of companies. At Kraft, wellness programs available to employees include discounts at fitness centers, flu shots, medical exams, newsletters and healthy food choice at work.

According to Joanne Armenio, Director of International Benefits at Kraft foods it took several months to come up with a plan, however, today the top wellness program within Kraft is the fitness center.

“We are moving forward with the Employee Assistance Program and we hope more of our organizations will implement and EAPs.”

According to NASA’s Wellness Program Manager Robert Davenport, NASA started to provide a corporate wellness program to their employees many years ago. Today, the Johnson Space Center program provides free 12 months membership to a multi-purpose facility for employees that is inclusive of a fitness center and different types of classes.

These include nutrition, stress management, behavior changes, health awareness education behavior challenges and incentives.

During 2008 and 2009, organizational data revealed that one third of the JSC population participated in the multipurpose facility membership program.

This year, in 2010, JSC also offered a wellness week inclusive of an indoor triathlon, family fitness fair and employee assistance program class complete with consultation.

About the Author

Anne-Line Crochet is Communications Intern for Medical Tourism Association. With a Masters degree in political science, a Minor in journalism, Anne-Line provides professional expertise to our public relations and editorial functions. Previously a staff writer for French publications Fragil and Ouest-France, she is fluent in English and French; and conversant in Spanish and Russian languages. Anne-Line writes for MTA’s Medical Tourism Magazine and Health Tourism Magazine. She can be reach at AnneLine@medicaltourismassociation.com