Thursday, June 5, 2014
Employee Health and Wellness
Employee health and wellness. What does this mean to you and your employees? Does it mean having physicals, offering easy to access health care? A gym in the office? Posters that encourage taking the stairs over the elevator, the salad over the burger?
Whatever technique you utilize to reach employees and improve their quality of life - and your work place health and productivity, it’s a trend. Real money and even penalties are being utilized as incentives to improve staff health.
After all with high health care costs and employee absenteeism as areas to be avoiding in the workplace, employees are being encouraged greatly to take responsibility for being healthy. This encouragement is a part of an overall education and training program that helps employers stay in compliance in regard to working hours, healthcare for employees, and cost savings. If your staff isn’t healthy, how can they encourage patient health? If staff is unwell, absent, unable to work, or racking up disability claims, that benefits no one. A healthy staff is a happy staff, a regulation-compliant staff, and a staff that helps patients to be healthy and happy too. At MedTrainer, we encourage the nearly 90% of all employers who provide incentives for wellness, such as financial rewards, educational programs, exercise facilities, and more.
So what kind of incentives are popular in the workplace, and which work, and work well? It’s still in the experimental stage - what works better both as an incentive and in terms of the ultimate goal of improving employee health, lowering costs, and supporting employees.
Education and awareness are both crucial elements to help staff health. Offering rewards to complete activities designed to create greater health is key. Such rewards include financial incentives to encourage health program participation, and constructively evaluating health and other factors that make this education so important.
Whether staff members are filling out a questionnaire about medical history, diet and fitness, or participating in biometric screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and cancer risks, having participation incentives are key to encouraging large scale participation in such an endeavor. With around 90% of employers offering incentives for wellness, simple implementation is vital to identifying employee risk factors and encouraging healthy behavior. Telling staff about health risks and evaluating behavior may not in and of itself assist health and productivity in the work place but it’s a positive start. Data compiles will help you to assess health care needs in the work place as well as overall employee health.
But naturally, finding out this information isn’t necessarily it’s own reward. In fact, to the contrary, informing staff members about risk and advising them does not always lead to positive action. Often encouragement and incentives are offered to get employees to take action after an assessment. What kind of action?
Participating in weight-management programs or receiving a preventive screening, participation in physical improvement programs and the like - these are the types of actions many employers reward.
And what kind of incentive? Primarily financial, this type of incentive encourages staff to change unhealthy behaviors. Although in some cases, such incentives don’t encourage real change, rather they encourage participation in specific programs or activities.
Still it’s a step in the right direction, with the financial cost far below that incurred by work loss or poor health among staff. One healthy behavior can lead to another, with more beneficial tasks and changes leading to greater rewards.
Staff members, MedTrainer finds, enjoy the freedom to choose among many health activities, from fitness classes to diet training and weigh-ins. Hitting important healthy marks regarding levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and weight encourages long term participation in these goals.
Staff will be financially motivated to improve health and well being. The carrot is better than the stick: penalties for poor behavior or lack of participation in wellness programs does not lead to the same positive goals.
In short, outcome based assistance works the best. Employers who bind incentives and penalties to health indicators generally have healthier employees with better work habits, lower blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass.
A new survey by Virgin HealthMiles Inc. and Workforce Management Magazine, suggest some 77% of employees feel such programs improve morale, health, and happiness as well as performance on the job and satisfaction on the job. It’s all about building a culture of health, which is the jumping off point for employers. Staff members become both more motivated and more productive, going beyond basic wellness to healthier behavior all around. It’s a complex process, building employee wellness and health.
There are, after all, legal issues that must be addressed: employers must provide workers who don't reach health targets an alternative method to earn incentives, and carefully evaluate what type of wellness programs and incentives to offer in the first place. Personalized interventions for example often work best, but it’s a fine line between obtaining optimal health goals and preventing the compromise of privacy.
Held annually, the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award highlights employers who offer a broader look at employee well-being. Those organizations that utilize techniques that create a healthier work place find improved work quality and productivity, less absenteeism, less turnover, and over all better customer service ratings. Providing employees with work practices supporting well-being results in better performance for businesses and employees across the board. In the medical profession, patients receive better care, and offer higher satisfaction ratings for their providers.
In short: the road to a successful medical care community, whether we are looking at veterinary, medical, dental, or pharmaceutical care, begins with a work environment that’s health both physically and psychologically.
Of course, it can be a challenge communicating wellness initiatives to employees. While health and wellness programs keep morale high, and staff healthy, economic responsibilities and the business of any medical practice can make it a steep climb to achieve real results.
But the overwhelming benefits of wellness programs are wide reaching. In fact, staff members often evaluate health and wellness offerings when choosing where to work.
From health care related incentives to mental health and depression programs - which have shown the most growth - to weight management, exercise programs, and educational programs, employee wellness programs and the incentives for employers to offer them and improve both health and performance over all are growing daily.
Making measurable progress in aligning workplace wellness programs with employees’ needs and interests is key to a successful wellness program. And how do you measure success? Well it should be based on improved company culture and health, improved workplace productivity and morale.
How to implement these programs? At MedTrainer, we perceive a number of important steps, including:
-Promoting preventative care, such as flu vaccines, on site.
-Encouraging exercise. Discounted group gym memberships perhaps? Promoting a lunchtime walking club? Offering incentives for exercise charting?
-Educating employees. What kind of education? Meditation? Yoga? Healthy eating, cooking classes? All of these greatly benefit.
- Medical staff notoriously does not discuss employee health benefits. It’s as if staff is expected to already know what is best. Make the time to do care giving for your staff!
-Use incentive based reward programs, based on health markers like healthy body mass or blood sugar. What to reward? Prizes, financial rewards, or simple employee recognition.
-Consider snack or meal options that are healthy in the break room. When your staff gets busy, do you think they’ll find better food fuel with fruit and veggies or candy?
-Pay attention to stress levels. The medical profession is stressful, there can literally be life and death decisions. Don’t let unmanaged stress lead to job dissatisfaction, absences, or mental or physical health issues. Encourage appropriate breaks, offer behavioral resources.
-Provide compensation for or actual programs addressing disease management programs, life coaching, stress management programs.