Good for waistlines & your bottom line
By Sandra Simpson, APRN, BC, COHN-S, manager in Occupational Health Services at a Fortune 500 corporation in Memphis, Tenn., and a member of the board of directors of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN). For a copy of the AAOHN wellness survey, visit www.aaohn.org, or call (800) 241-8014, x0.
In today’s hectic world, most of us are spending more time at work, and have
increasingly less time to look after our health. For a long time, employers
have understood the benefits associated with keeping workers well – raised productivity
from decreased rates of absence and lowered disability claims. For these reasons,
coupled with the fact that many organizations realized double-digit health care
costs last year, organizations should consider Employee Wellness Programs as
a way to keep employees healthy.
But just how important are these initiatives to employees? How often are they
willing to take part in initiatives designed to positively impact their health
and wellness? Who do employees trust to provide them with important information
about their health?
Answers to these questions and more were recently garnered from a study commissioned
by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. (AAOHN).
The AAOHN survey questioned 500 employees nationwide about their perceptions
of Employee Wellness Programs. More than three-quarters of all members indicated
these initiatives are a good way to improve their overall health, and nearly
60 percent consider these offerings an incentive to remain with their current
employer. staff member retention and turnover impact the bottom line, so building
Employee Wellness Programs into the work site culture is a valuable way to help
retain talented employees in addition to enhancing personal health and workplace
The Health wish list
Employees appear to have their own agenda when it comes to their health. With
new pressures resulting from an unstable economy, national security threats
and work/balance issues, it’s not surprising that 85 percent of survey respondents
cited Stress Management Programs as a priority topic for work site wellness.
In addition to stress, other preferred topic areas include testing initiatives
(84 percent), exercise/physical fitness initiatives (84 percent), medical insurance
education (81 percent) and disease management lunch and learns (80 percent).
In addition to lifestyle and personal health issues, those asked expressed
concern about work-related health issues, including strains and injuries resulting
from lifting or task-oriented muscle repetition, exposure to harmful substances,
personal injury, vision changes due to computer work and workplace violence.
What you should do
With such a broad range of health concerns, a key goal for employers is finding
a way to proactively address the health needs of the largest number of employees,
and effectively change unhealthy behaviors, promote wellness and ward off disease
Printed materials such as brochures, posters, fliers or pamphlets present an
easy solution. But it’s important to remember that different employees require
different formats for learning. A good rule of thumb: provide information in
a variety of learning formats such as videos, pamphlets, health-related quizzes,
display boards, Lunch & Learn presentations and reimbursement or incentive
This assumes you’ve overcome the first hurdle – getting employees to sign on
to a Employee Wellness Program. While survey respondents indicated health and
Employee Wellness Programs are important, just six out of 10 (60 percent) reported
that they participated in the Employee Wellness Programs at their organizations.
The other 40 percent cited lack of interest and lack of time as deterrents.
This points to the need for a comprehensive, structured Employee Wellness Plan
using a innovative approach, with an incentive for participation and effective
By investing in an organized Employee Wellness Plan headed by a qualified health
care professional such as an onsite nurse, organizations can give employees
the access to the health information they want, and increase participation and
generate interest at the same time.
The result: employees become savvier health care consumers who feel more in
charge of their individual health. And healthier employees make for a healthier