Five Steps to Workforce Wellness

Companies that invest in their employees’ well-being can expect to see returns in both savings on health care costs and in employee performance.

Andrea Newman, director of human resources at FitLinxx, a health and wellness technology provider, shared how the company went about reforming its health care strategy to make wellness the norm in its workforce in five steps:

Step 1: Develop a health care strategy that includes a wellness program. Focus not only on reducing health care costs, but also on introducing a culture of wellness.

Step 2: Initiate health screenings. Evaluate your employees’ needs — these screenings may bring to light health issues of which they might not be aware. From there, regularly monitor fluctuations to track progress in improved health or detect any illness.

Step 3: Implement an activity-based wellness program. Encourage employees to exercise by setting activity goals and allowing them to visualize their progress. Some technology allows workers to measure the distances they have walked and see how much closer they are to achieving their goals.

Step 4: Communicate. “To keep folks engaged, you need to find out what is relevant to them,” Newman said. An integral part of FitLinxx’s system is surveying employees who participate in the program and using their feedback to further enhance the program to fit their needs.

Step 5: Create reward-based challenges. Friendly competition can serve as a motivating force when it comes to wellness. Creating communities amongst workers not only encourages greater participation and activity, but can also improve interdepartmental relations.

The results are tangible — not only in the number of miles walked and weight lost, but in concrete ways that can impact the bottom line. In October 2011, Gallup’s well-being surveys estimated that workers who struggle with obesity and other chronic health conditions will miss an additional 450 million days of work annually compared to healthy workers. That’s approximately $153 billion lost in productivity each year to absenteeism.

Wellness programs have gone a long way toward improving rates of employees being present at work. Thirty-five percent of workers polled in the 2011 Principal Financial Well-Being Index reported missing fewer days of work after participating in a wellness program, and 52 percent said they had more energy to be productive.

“An increase in overall activity improves the health of your workforce not only in a physical sense, but also from a morale and energy sense,” said Ann Hamann, executive vice president of marketing at FitLinxx. “It becomes very important from a company perspective to form a culture of wellness.”