The advancing age of the American workforce presents unique challenges for managers and human resource directors in companies throughout the country. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the average age of the American worker will reach 42.6 years by 2022.
But with each year, the average incidence of lifestyle derived illness is expected to increase, placing greater strain on the company and corporate divisions relying on these increasingly seasoned and skilled workers.
The solution to these unique challenges presented by the advancing age of the American workforce can be in the form of a workplace wellness program. An import from Japan, the workplace wellness program has taken root in many American companies – resulting in increased productivity, healthier lifespan, and employee loyalty.
What to Include in a Wellness Program
A well-rounded wellness program will include three distinct spheres of influence: healthy lifestyle support, illness prevention, and physical fitness. Here’s what you should consider:
Healthy Lifestyle Support
One of the greatest challenges facing employee health is poor lifestyle choice. There are three major vices most Americans fall prey to: smoking, drinking, and consumption of empty calories. Implementing a wellness program that addresses these issues in a supportive way can create a healthier and more energetic workforce within your organization.
Implement Smoking Cessation Programs
Tobacco is one of the greatest scourges of modern times. Many states have laws in place restricting the use of tobacco in and around work facilities. Consider eliminating “smoke breaks” and advocating the use of alternative sources of nicotine. You may even want to consider incorporating a financial incentive to encourage your employees to stop smoking. For instance, a one-time bonus of $100 for completing a smoking cessation program as directed by a doctor.
Take Alcohol Out of Your Corporate Culture
According to the CDC, alcoholism is responsible for a net loss of more than $220 Billion per year in economic productivity. It’s a common condition in corporate America that can affect one’s functional life, both at home and in the workplace.
Considering the social stigma of the condition, there are three general steps that your organization can take to help cut down on excessive alcohol use by employees:
- Make resources available for alcoholic support groups in a way that does not force employees to reveal themselves to others.
- Make sure alcohol recovery programs are included in the corporate health insurance plan.
- Change the corporate culture by providing non-alcoholic beverages during business outings.
Promote Healthier Eating Habits
Obesity and diabetes has become a major source of concern for public health throughout the country. Help your employees make healthier dietary choices by providing healthy drinks, snacks, and lunches at the office.
Helping your employees cut down on their empty calorie consumption can help your organization cut down on insurance costs in the long-term.
It is impossible to prevent every incidence of flu or bacterial infection; however, with a couple simple-to-implement policies, it is possible to eliminate the vast majority of work-derived communicable illnesses.
Implement Paid Time Off for Illness
Employees fearful for keeping fiscally solvent will come into work if the alternative is a decreased paycheck. This places the rest of the staff at increased risk of contracting an illness, and harming the corporate bottom line. Considering the risk of lost productivity is far greater than a day’s salary, it makes fiscal sense to have the employee stay home and recuperate. Many states and localities are mandating paid sick leave, so this will likely become standard practice over the coming years.
Offer Reimbursement for Vaccinations
Vaccinations are vital to limiting the spread and damaging scope of numerous illnesses that are endemic to the local environment. For instance, the flu vaccine has proven to be effective in preventing some of the worst symptoms and reducing the spread of the highly mutable virus between individuals.
Offering reimbursement for vaccination fees to your employees can encourage them to practice better prevention.
Improve Workplace Hygiene
Workplace hygiene is something that is rarely discussed in professional settings due to the perception that only individuals in food preparation or healthcare industries need to be concerned with bacterial and viral transmissions. Sadly, that misconception results in numerous sick days every year.
By including a directive that all employees need to wash their hands every hour or so, and adding sterilization to the cleaning routine, it is possible to reduce the incidence of employee-to-employee viral transmission – helping to lower the amount of lost productivity during times of the year often associated with illness.
The lower the incidence of illness in your company, the lower the risk assessed by your health insurance company when determining coverage rates.
A strong body is able to resist and recover from illness at a more effective rate than one in poor physical condition. Additionally, countless studies have shown an intrinsic link between moderate physical exercise and improved mental outlook. Here are some ways you can promote physical fitness in your organization:
Implement Morning Exercises
This common Japanese practice uses communal exercises as a bonding technique among staff at the start of the workday. A daily stretch routine is one example of a communal exercise. It only takes ten minutes, and can be done before the department starts its daily activities.
Basic exercises can set the stage for a day of activity and help promote a positive attitude between employees and management. They may also be used in negotiating lower insurance premiums for your organization and employees.
Consider Reimbursing Gym Memberships
Many health insurance plans offer deductions for policyholders that spend a certain amount of time every month at a participating gym. A good way to convince employees to take advantage of this feature is to double the incentive by reimbursing the cost of the gym membership entirely.
Everyone is always interested in saving a little money. Adding this program may encourage your employees to improve their physical health without adding on to their budget, and costing the company much in the way of capital.
Think Carefully When Deciding
With the age of the average American worker increasing every day, any program designed to limit illness and improve overall health has exceptional value. A comprehensive employee wellness program will cover the gamut from diet to illness prevention, and have in place numerous resources to help people obtain the highest quality service possible.
When approaching an insurance company, be prepared to discuss how such a program can reduce costs and help employees feel their best, both on and off the clock.