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Incentivizing Health in the Workplace

Posted Sep 26 2009 10:07pm

This is a cross-post I did today for WeAretheRealDeal. You can read it here after the jump. Wellness programs

 

I feel extremely fortunate (particularly in this turbulent economy) to work at a company where employees not only have health insurance, but also were encouraged to “get healthy” with a new wellness program that was initiated this spring.

After completing a total-body composition assessment, each employee was given a nice budget to use for a variety of get-healthy tools — including gym memberships, yoga or fitness classes, personal training sessions, weight loss programs, home gym equipment, smoking cessation, nutrition counseling, etc.

For people like me who already belonged to Weight Watchers and already had a gym membership, it was an awesome incentive to try something new. For example, I jumped at the opportunity to seek out a trainer for a few sessions, bought the P90X DVD system, and bought Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred DVD.

And for those who were not really active before, suddenly they had a reason to get healthier and/or become active. After all, it wasn’t going to cost anything but their own time and energy. Who could turn down an opportunity like that?!

As it turned out, not many. (We had close to 100 percent participation).

You should see my colleagues today! Several have seriously transformed themselves. They’ve lost weight, they’ve toned up, they’ve begun running or weight training … and the energy around the office is palpable.

Hell, there’s even a group of us now who were so inspired that we formed a lunch-time walking group. Now, we get bummed when there’s a conference call or meeting that gets in the way of our walk.

Of course, I realize that not every company has the means to offer a wellness program like ours — especially in this economy — and I realize I am very fortunate to work where I do.

The fact that my employer took the proactive route to invest in its employees’ health means a lot to me; mental and physical well-being are so very important, and these kinds of programs are often the first to go when it comes to cost-cutting.

That said, I am convinced that presenting employees with a program that encourages them to get healthy — without asking them to open their wallets — is one way for companies to save money and help Americans get fitter: lowering their risks for disease and illness. After all, healthy, active employees tend to be sick less often. And doesn’t that help every company’s bottom line?

No matter which side of the political aisle you stand, in light of this cluster of a health care debate here in the U.S., I think it’s safe to say that we know just how important wellness and prevention are. The benefits of exercising, eating right, getting enough sleep, etc., extend to every aspect of our overall well-being and have trickle-down effects to our performance at work.

I don’t have stats to back up how much our company has saved in health-care costs this year, but I do know that having an incentive to get healthy inspired us … and I hope it’s a program that continues next year, as well.

How about you? Does your company have a wellness program and if so, has the craptastic economy changed it? Do you participate? Would you participate if your company offered one? Can you suggest one?

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