Making the Most out of Your Organization’s Wellness Program

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By Christine G. Leyden, RN, MSN
SVP of Client Services and Chief Accreditation Officer

The majority of adults spend most of their waking hours at work. That can make it difficult to regularly exercise, get the recommended eight hours of sleep or eat right. Fortunately, more and more organizations are increasing the resources they offer to improve employees’ well-being. A recent survey found that 90 percent of U.S. corporations are offering wellness programs to their employees, which can include programs to promote tobacco cessation, chronic disease detection and management, or obesity avoidance. These companies realize that happy, healthy employees are more productive and contribute more to the organization.

Of course, employees benefit too. Improving healthy behaviors can prevent the onset of chronic conditions and ultimately lead to a better working environment because workers simply feel better and have more energy and focus. But to reap the benefits, employees need to engage in these programs and empower themselves to take an active role in their health.

Maximize wellness program activities and incentives

There are several ways employees can maximize the opportunities that arise from workplace wellness programs. First and foremost, it is vital that employees answer health risk assessments and employee interest surveys adequately to reflect their personal lifestyles. While it might be difficult to admit that one is a heavy smoker or does not regularly exercise, organizations use this information when prioritizing the types of activities and services offered within their wellness program. By providing honest answers, employees enable employers to develop programs that offer them real benefits.

After successfully completing a health profile, the next step is to define personal goals. Whether it is to take the stairs instead of the elevator, or to quit smoking, setting well-defined goals will provide direction for selecting strategies and a basis for which to measure progress. Employees should make certain that each goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  Participating fully in all aspects of an organization’s wellness program will ensure that employees meet their goals and remain on course to a healthy lifestyle. For instance, it is not uncommon for organizations to offer discounts to local gyms, monetary rewards for participating in disease management programs or other incentives for reaching wellness goals.

Be proactive in promoting a healthy culture

While it might be easier to stick to new wellness goals during the first few weeks after enrollment, most find it a challenge to remain motivated and focused as time goes on. Therefore, it is imperative that co-workers be supportive of each other as they both attempt to reach their personal goals and strive for a healthier lifestyle. Whether it is offering words of encouragement or simply listening to someone who has had a rough day, the key to any successful wellness program is peer support.

For those employees whose organizations do not currently offer wellness programs, they should speak to their Human Resources department. Discuss the benefits of implementing a wellness program for both the organization and its employees. The H.R. representative can research wellness program vendors that have been accredited by independent organizations. Third-party accreditation allows organizations the ability to make informed comparisons when choosing among a number of wellness vendors. By implementing a wellness program that is accredited, organizations and its employees can be assured that they are selecting a vendor that is committed to and has met industry-recognized program quality standards.

Wellness programs benefit employees and organizations

According to research by the World Economic Forum, wellness can play a significant role in employee engagement, organizational productivity, creativity and innovation. In addition, several studies by American Journal of Health Promotion show that employee wellness initiatives can lead to reduced health care costs, a drop in short-term sick leave and enhanced recruitment and retention for all positions. Not to mention, healthy employees can really boost a company’s bottom line.

But most importantly, a properly implemented workplace wellness program underscores a company’s investment in health as a foundation for the productivity and potential of its people. It provides the tools and resources needed for employees to change their lifestyles and make a commitment to lead healthier and happier lives.

About the Author

Christine G. Leyden, , RN, MSN is the Senior Vice President of Client Services and Chief Accreditation Officer for URAC, the leading health care accreditation and education organization. For more information about URAC’s Wellness Accreditation program, visit www.urac.org. 

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