Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Saving Lives, Boosting Productivity: Workplace Wellness Programs Are a Win-Win

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Saving Lives, Boosting Productivity: Workplace Wellness Programs Are a Win-Win

Article excerpt

When it comes to workplace wellness programs, whether large or small, the goal is the same. By making the healthiest choice the easiest choice for their employees and tailoring their programs to match worker preferences, businesses are literally saving lives each day.

It's a practical as well as altruistic initiative. Companies with flourishing wellness programs see a significant savings in their health insurance costs, a boost in employee productivity and fewer sick days. According to the Wellness Councils of America, for every $1 businesses spend on wellness programs, they save $3.48 on health care costs and $5.82 in reduced absenteeism.

The types of wellness services offered obviously vary greatly from company to company, due to size, budget limitations and both employee and management support. Typically workplace wellness programs involve:

* Health screenings.

* Nutrition education.

* Weight-loss programs.

* Smoking cessation.

* Walking clubs.

* On-site gyms or other health-related amenities.

* Discounts at local YMCA or other fitness centers.

* Guest speakers on health-related topics.

* Wellness challenges (i.e. eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising, running marathons and health maintenance programs.)

Employers looking to establish their own wellness program need to start at ground zero by surveying their employees.

"All workplaces are different," said Jodi Smith, Health at Work coordinator for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD), who counsels large and small businesses around the state. "I can't stress enough how important it is to find out what employees really want - because it won't do any good to implement programs if the employees don't want to participate."

Management support is also critical, and once both management and employees are on board they need to contact resources that can help tailor a program to their specific needs.

There's lots of help available. Central Oklahoma Turning Point, a community health program of the United Way of Central Oklahoma, offers a Health at Work Coalition, which includes a directory of work-site wellness resources, strategies and success stories on two separate websites, www.healthyoklahomans.org and www.healthatworkokc.org. Going further, these resources offer businesses a fiscal analysis of their return on investment.

The coalition also sponsors monthly lunch meetings where attendees can learn about work-site wellness services in the Oklahoma City metro area, plus receive tips and materials to enhance their individual programs.

"The hardest step is implementing the program, but once a program is implemented, it is important to continue to assess that program, to make sure it's working towards the goals of the business and its employees," said Keith Kleszynski, COTP director. …

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