The Employee Wellness Plan: A Strategy for Fighting Tine "Evil from Within"

By McDonough, Mark E. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, December 2011 | Go to article overview

The Employee Wellness Plan: A Strategy for Fighting Tine "Evil from Within"


McDonough, Mark E., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


As a profession, law enforcement historically has focused on safety strategies that protect officers during their policing duties (e.g., tactical skills, pursuit driving, firearms training, and use-of-force scenarios). Regrettably, agency administrators sometimes do not take into account the daily toll this profession has on those sworn to serve and protect our communities.

Within law enforcement leadership, not much attention has focused on the full spectrum of officer wellness. Agency administrators need to further address the realities of police stress and burnout as they impact the individual as a whole. Otherwise, the profession risks losing officers to cynicism, apathy, chemical dependencies, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and, perhaps, even suicide.

THE NEED EOR A PLAN

One tactic to remedy some of these issues is the adoption of an employee wellness plan (EWP). If developed and implemented properly, an EWP improves recruitment and retention, enhances job satisfaction, and reduces employee absenteeism.

With all of the resources that agencies devote to improving officers' training, knowledge, experiences, and technology, why should departments not strive to enhance the welfare of their employees- -and greatest assets? Today's law enforcement leaders must provide their personnel with the means to enable them to live full, active, productive, and healthy lives. An EWP functions as one such tool.

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Modem police leaders must balance their duties of providing for individual officers' wellness and helping them meet the goals and expectations of the agency. These interests do not have to conflict. When police leaders enhance the vitality of their officers, they improve the organization as a whole. A plan that augments the long-term wellness of agency members allows for increased job satisfaction, productivity, and overall health of the organization.

An EWP provides employees the tools they need to address their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. An EWP should encompass an officer's entire career: recruitment, retention, and retirement. The plan must adhere to the current culture of the agency and address the local needs and resources available. Through course work, support networks, and practical recommendations from fellow officers, employees learn numerous wellness techniques to apply to their daily lives. This combination of theoretical and tactical information will help employees improve their personal well-being and maximize their productivity. Further, it will boost the entire agency's morale.

BACKGROUND

Behavioral science experts who research officer wellness note four specific dimensions--mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual--that comprise the whole person. One researcher explains the whole person as "where the health of the human entity is comprised of the integration, balance, and harmony of one's mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual components." (1) Just as the human body requires nourishment from nutritious foods, adequate exercise, and rest, the inner self needs nourishment so it, too, will remain healthy. When individuals neglect any one of these whole-person components, their health and well-being suffer.

As leading experts research how this topic relates to police officers, their findings are gaining notoriety throughout the law enforcement community. Spirituality in law enforcement relates to "a sense of meaning and purpose larger than the instrumental duties of law enforcement, which affects the most critical aspects of practice, performance, vitality, and longevity in the profession. It energizes the ethics of practice, resulting in exemplary (efficient and effective) performance." (2)

Spirituality, as described here, does not imply religious beliefs, but, rather, interrelates with the other dimensions listed above. Incorporating spirituality into the workplace comprises an essential component of an EWP. …

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