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Establishing a Worksite Health and Wellness Program

Posted Sep 24 2008 7:10pm

The workplace setting is a effective, but frequently overlooked, component in managing worker health.  Here we will identify some of the best-practices in beginning a Worksite Health and Wellness Program that supports your organization’s employee health strategy and allows workers to take charge of their own health.  For example, a Worksite Health and Wellness Program that includes a smoke-free workplace policy improves the likelihood that workers will try to quit smoking and will quit smoking successfully.

Similarly, a Worksite Health and Wellness Program that includes discounting healthy foods in your cafeteria and vending machines helps raise workers’ consumption of healthy foods which supports your investment in disease management programs for workers with diabetes, heart disease or hypertension. The following will guide you through the ten key steps in beginning a Worksite Health and Wellness Program and workplace setting that promotes worker health.

In an era of increasing healthcare costs and intense competition, companies have a vested interest in the health of their workers.  Research has found that, on average, workers with healthy behaviors (such as not smoking or being active for 30 minutes a day) incur lower healthcare expenses, are absent from work less frequently, and are more productive when at work (higher presenteeism) than workers with unhealthy behaviors.

Worksite Health and Wellness Program: Obtaining Leadership Support

Worksite Health and Wellness Program support from the highest level of leadership is vital to your success in beginning a culture of health within your workplace. Look for Worksite Health and Wellness Program support from a leader who is respected by and can sway other leaders. (It’s not important that he or she be the fittest executive within your organization just that they directly support the Worksite Health and Wellness Program.) You will be relying on this culture-of-health champion to advocate for changes that you recommend and to ensure the organization allocates adequate Worksite Health and Wellness Program resources (staff, time, and money) to maintain and improve the workplace policies, physical setting, and social norms.

Capture Worksite Health and Wellness Program Staff and Budget

The creation and maintenance of a Worksite Health and Wellness Program within your company needs to be someone’s priority. However, unless your company is quite large, you likely don’t need to hire a full-time staff person for the Worksite Health and Wellness Program.  There are a number of ways to find an individual with the necessary skills to guide and support your company's Worksite Health and Wellness Program.
    
Establishing facilities and Worksite Health and Wellness Program policies, such as those allowing workers to be physically active during the workday, does not need to be expensive, but it does require adequate and sustained financing.  If possible, include the creation of a workplace setting that supports the Worksite Health and Wellness Program as a permanent component of the operating budget; that helps to ensure it’s an ongoing priority for your company.

Staff Member Involvement in the Worksite Health and Wellness Program

Developing a cross section of employees to advise your company’s Worksite Health and Wellness Program ensures that improvements in workplace facilities, policies and practices address the true needs and barriers of all groups of employees.   In addition, these workers can support as the front-line Worksite Health and Wellness Program supporters of policies and practices with their peers.

Develop a Worksite Health and Wellness Program "Brand" and Vision

A Worksite Health and Wellness Program vision and a brand are effective first steps in bringing a Worksite Health and Wellness Program from an idea to a reality. What would you like your workplace environment to look like five years from now? A succinct Worksite Health and Wellness Program vision statement summarizes for all (workers and leaders alike) the reasons for beginning a Worksite Health and Wellness Program. It also reminds everyone of the link between worker health and your company’s ability to achieve its overall mission.   

Branding your company's Worksite Health and Wellness Program conveys to workers that the company’s commitment and support of healthy behaviors is important and is here to stay. Select a Worksite Health and Wellness Program name and logo that resonate with workers. Then use that brand on all Worksite Health and Wellness Program communications with workers about the policies, facilities and programs your company offers to promote healthy behaviors.

Assess Your Existing Worksite Health and Wellness Program Situation

Exactly how your company establishes a Worksite Health and Wellness Program that promotes healthy eating, physical activity, and reduces tobacco use will depend on the unique characteristics of your company and employee population.  

Assess how the current workplace facilities, policies, and unwritten norms support -- or discourage -- healthy behaviors.

Gather information on the health and health-related behaviors of your employee population.  The most common method is by using a validated health risk assessment. If you don’t have data specific to your workers, you can estimate the prevalence of different health risks and behaviors within your employee population using state or national data.  Note: Information on employees’ health interests alone is not sufficient; but can be a useful supplement to health risk data and might help you set priorities.

Determine Worksite Health and Wellness Program Goals and Priorities

Use what you’ve learned about employee health and about your current workplace setting to determine your company’s Worksite Health and Wellness Program priorities. From those Worksite Health and Wellness Program priorities, define clear and measurable Worksite Health and Wellness Program objectives for improving employee health and your company’s culture. Well written objectives will provide the basis for planning and for measuring your progress.

Select Worksite Health and Wellness Program Procedures


Focus your company’s Worksite Health and Wellness Program resources (time, energy and money) on strategies that are most likely to produce results:  an increase in healthy eating, an increase in physical activity, and a reduction in tobacco use.

There’s no need to guess at what might work. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reviewed thousands of studies and has identified the Worksite Health and Wellness Program approaches most likely to result in significant, lasting, and widespread improvements in health behaviors. Those Worksite Health and Wellness Program strategies are included in the physical activity, tobacco, and healthy eating sections of this website.

The formula for Worksite Health and Wellness Program success is to make the healthier choices the easier choices.

Implement Worksite Health and Wellness Program Procedures

Once you’ve chosen your Worksite Health and Wellness Program Procedures, it can be useful to arrange the work on a timeline.  The “right” amount of time for implementing each Worksite Health and Wellness Program strategy depends on the staff time, budget, and business demands of your company.  Work plans keep your efforts moving and help to ensure that plans to create a Worksite Health and Wellness Program stay on track even if there are changes in staffing or other challenges.

Educate and Communicate About the Worksite Health and Wellness Program

Ensure workers are aware of the Worksite Health and Wellness Program opportunities you’ve provided.   Planning your Worksite Health and Wellness Program communications allows you to communicate regularly with workers without overwhelming them at any one time.

Monitor and Report Your Worksite Health and Wellness Program Results

At the same time that you plan your Worksite Health and Wellness Program Procedures, think about how you’ll measure success.  It’s much easier to gather information – or to create systems for collecting information -- before you implement a Worksite Health and Wellness Program strategy rather than as an afterthought.   Keep in mind that you’re likely to see improvements in worker morale and/or behaviors before you see decreases in absenteeism or healthcare claims.

Report both your Worksite Health and Wellness Program successes in building a healthy workplace environment (such as complete implementation of a policy that provides workers time for walking during the workday), and Worksite Health and Wellness Program successes in getting employees to take charge of their health (an increase in the number of workers who contacted the stop-smoking program, or an increase in the number of fruit-cups purchased from the cafeteria following a promotion and price-cut).

For more information and free worksite health and wellness program materials visit www.WellnessProposals.com and/or www.InfiniteWellnessSolutions.com

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