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May is Employee Health and Fitness Month
by Original Post by Heather Wingo | Adapted for blog by Katie Cullum
On average, Americans working full-time spend more than one-third of their day, five days a week at the workplace. The use of effective workplace programs and policies can reduce health risks and improve the quality of life for American workers.
An employee’s health and wellness is the state of their physical and mental health, inside and outside of the workplace. It takes into consideration any medical and behavioral conditions or habits, as well as energy, mood and motivation levels. If an employee’s health or wellness suffers, it affects not only their own performance but can also harm their team, organization, and personal lives. Because of that, supporting employees through a lens of workplace wellness is invaluable.
While employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace, they also have abundant opportunities to promote individual health and foster a healthy work environment for more than 159 million workers in the United States. The use of effective workplace programs can reduce health risks and improve the quality of life for American workers.
The workplace provides many opportunities for promoting health and emotional well-being and preventing disease and injury. Workplace health programs can:
- Influence social norms
- Establish health-promoting policies
- Increase health behaviors such as dietary and physical activity changes
- Improve employee’s health knowledge and skills
- Help employees get necessary health screenings, immunizations, and follow-up care
- Reduce employees’ on-the-job exposure to substances and hazards that can cause diseases and injury
What are workplace health programs?
Workplace health programs refer to a coordinated and comprehensive set of strategies which include programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to meet the health and safety needs of all employees. Examples of workplace health program components and strategies include the following:
- Health education classes
- Access to local fitness facilities
- Company policies that promote healthy behaviors such as a tobacco-free campus policy
- Employee health insurance coverage for appropriate preventative screenings
- A healthy work environment created through actions such as making healthy foods available and accessible through vending machines or cafeterias
- A work environment free of recognized health and safety threats with means to identify and address new problems as they arise
Impact of workplace health programs
Workplace health programs can lead to change at both the individual (i.e., employee) and the organization levels. For individuals, workplace health programs have the potential to impact an employee’s health, such as their health behaviors; health risks for disease; and current health status.
For organizations, workplace health programs have the potential to impact areas such as health care costs, absenteeism, productivity, recruitment/retention, culture and employee morale. Employers, workers, their families and communities all benefit from the prevention of disease and injury and from sustained health.
With theses extra investments in an employee’s wellness, employers may wonder “what’s in it for the company?” If organizations invest in health work environments, they can reap the benefits of health and wellness through improved performance and consistency.
- Less absenteeism: Studies have shown that employee fitness and a health work environment can result in workers missing fewer days.
- Savings on health insurance: While it shouldn’t be an employer’s primary reason to utilize a workplace wellness program, most companies see a decrease in health costs and payouts for employee claims.
- Higher employee satisfaction: Employee reviews and surveys consistently show that wellness programs increase satisfaction in the workplace. This includes better teamwork, communication and job performance.
- Great job retention: Recruiting new employees is time consuming and expensive, ergo retaining the same employees is beneficial to companies. If organizations treat their employees well by offering benefits and a comprehensive wellness program, workers will have more incentive to stay.
- Improved productivity: Sponsoring employee health directly correlates with increased productivity. Workers tend to work harder if they are healthy and enjoy the work environment that surrounds them.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016, May 13). Workplace Health Model. Workplace Health Promotion. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/model/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, February 1). Workplace Health Strategies. Workplace Health Promotion. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/health-strategies/index.html
University of Southern California. (2021, September 13). How to promote wellness in the Workplace: USC Online. USC MAPP Online. Retrieved from https://appliedpsychologydegree.usc.edu/blog/wellness-in-the-workplace/