Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Wellness Programs Good for Everyone

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Wellness Programs Good for Everyone

Article excerpt


According to a recent study on wellness, people who work long hours (more than 55 hours a week) have a 33 percent greater risk of stroke and a 13 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease.

In researching wellness, I talked with Bob Merberg, employee wellness manager at Paychex and winner of the Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles award six times from the National Business Group on Health.

Q: Why should a company commit to wellness?

A: Companies understand that healthy employees are more productive at work and often have healthier lives at home. In some cases, it's lower absenteeism. Sometimes it means less "presenteeism." Presenteeism is time when you're at work but your productivity is compromised for health-related reasons. Think of someone who is working with a migraine headache or lower back pain. Wellness can enhance employee recruitment, retention and engagement as well as employees' commitment to their work and to their employer.

Q: How do companies measure success with a wellness program?

A: An employer needs to decide in advance why they are introducing a wellness program. If the program seeks to improve employee engagement, then use employee engagement data to measure its success. If reducing absenteeism is the goal, then look at the absentee rates of people who participate in the program. Are presenteeism rates improving? That's something that can be determined with questionnaires.

Employers are interested in keeping their health care costs in check. They should measure the success of their program, but the metrics have to be based on the company's motivation for doing the program.

Q: What are businesses doing to promote wellness?

A: We typically see nutritional counseling and brown bag sessions on health topics like nutrition. Flu shots are often one of the most popular and common employee wellness program benefits. Weight management programs and biometric screenings, which include screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure and body weight or BMI, are also used. Many employers offer coaching to help their employees achieve their goals related to wellness, such as getting more fit and eating healthfully. Tobacco cessation programs and gym membership discounts are common perks. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 33 percent of companies offer wellness newsletters.

Q: What does it typically cost a company to have a wellness program?

A: Anywhere from $100 per employee, per year, for a small business to $500 per employee, per year, for a larger business. Another way to look at it is one and one-half to two percent of total health care costs. A wellness program for a small or medium- sized employer doesn't have to cost much. It can be done with almost no expense other than the investment in the people who help organize it. …

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