7 Simple Ways Companies Can Help Their Employees (and Their Bottom Line)

Companies that place an emphasis on healthy culture have employees who are 3 times as likely as others to report taking action to improve their health, according to a CDC report.

An employer’s commitment to employee well-being is critical to overall job satisfaction, as much so as advancement and more important than being competitive in pay and benefits.

In addition, companies with a strong pro-health culture fare better financially and experience lower employee turnover.

With that in mind, employers today are big on all sorts of faddy wellness ideas designed to reduce their own healthcare costs and improve their employees’ health. But many such programs force employees to make drastic lifestyle changes and/or wear potentially invasive fitness tracking devices. However, a recent U.S. News Money article noted a number of popular employer wellness programs that might just be simple and cost-effective enough to work. Here are seven that employers could adopt without turning off employees:

  • Ditch the Unhealthy Vending Machines. Most employers stock lunchroom vending machines with all sorts of soft drinks, energy drinks, candy, chips, and other unhealthy junk foods that are loaded with sugar and salt. In Healthy Vending in the Workplace, the Mid-America Coalition on Healthcare points to a number of studies that show converting half of vending machine items to healthy options helps both the office revenue and the health of its employees. The Coalition also lists a number of healthy beverages and snacks and their recommended calorie counts. Today’s employees are becoming more health conscious, so instead of the frosted donuts or cream cheese bagels, why not present employees with baskets of fresh fruit, veggie plates or assorted nuts?
  • Take the Work out of Exercising at Work. If employers don’t have a company gym or physical workout area (many larger employers do), consider mapping out an employee walk route around the outside of company facilities. Routes can vary in length so both younger and older employees get a safe and healthy workout. Managers should take the lead and start walking schedules before working hours, at noon and after work. Shower and locker room facilities should be built to permit employees to freshen up after their walks. Weighing in on the importance of providing exercise facilities at the workplace, an article in WebMD quotes Dr. Peter Snell, an exercise physiologist and assistant professor of internal medicine: “The availability of facilities to exercise at the work site removes many of the barriers to exercise, including finding time, being self-conscious at public health clubs, social atmosphere and the expense.”
  • Do Away With Weight-Loss Competitions. An article in the The Wallstreet Journal noted that the contests usually benefit men more than women and that participants tend to gain weight back after the incentives stop. The competitions can also be divisive and encourage unhealthy dieting. While popular, these competitive events can be unfair to those who struggle with eating disorders and may actually be harmed by losing too much weight. The same holds true for those who are already thin and feel compelled to compete just so they aren’t left out. Weight loss often fails to address such health issues as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and proper nutrition. A recent New York Times article noted that RAND researchers found no net cost savings in programs focusing on weight loss, stressing, instead, the importance of disease management.
  • Encourage Employees to Stay at Home When Sick. While company handbooks advise sick employees to stay home, managers and supervisors often discourage them from using sick time. Supervisors and managers should take the lead on this by staying home themselves when they’re sick. You can’t meet a deadline if half of your staff or team is sick.
  • Offer Enough Paid Sick Time. It’s simple math. Employers that don’t offer enough paid sick time can expect more workers to come to work sick—and infect others, who in turn, will also come to work sick. Abuses in sick time should be handled on a case-by-case basis.
  • No More Doctor’s Notes for Sick Employees. Please. This grade school practice is insulting to employees. If employers insist on requiring a doctor’s note after an employee’s sick time is used up, they can expect some pretty disgruntled workers. Forcing employees to see a doctor for a cold or flu so they can get a note drives up health care costs. It also encourages people to come to work sick, which is often easier than seeing a doctor on short notice.
  • Provide Better Health Insurance. If employers expect employees to take responsibility for their health, they need to meet them half way and offer them good, affordable health insurance. Such health plans should offer free or low-cost preventative care and free doctor visits for routine check-ups and screenings.

 

Different Drivers for Wellness Programs

In designing an effective corporate health and wellness strategy, WorldatWork noted that one workplace wellness strategy might not fit all employers. Below are some examples of how big companies alter their wellness programs to fit their employees’ needs best:

  • Google, eager to foster healthy and engaged employees, looks to wellness programs that focus on team activities, concierge services, fitness and stress-related programs.
  • Safeway looks to wellness programs that boost operational efficiency to keep costs down. They seek prevention and disease-management strategies as key to any wellness strategy.
  • A public utility like PG&E focuses more on wellness programs that reduce risk and keep employees safe, such as Employee Assistant Programs, safety programs and ergonomics.
  • Then there are companies like Cisco who need strong leaders to stay with the company. Here, wellness programs focus on comprehensive, fully paid healthcare coverage, work-life programs and career development.

Does your company offer any wellness incentives? Which incentives have worked for you, and which haven’t?

79 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nimue P.

Sounds like a plan.

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Mary B.
Mary B4 years ago

The world doesn't need to be perfect for employers to have enough intelligence to know paying a living wage, haveing paid sick days, and sending people home if they come in sick, and giving plenty of vacation time to rejuvinate are just the very least we can expect in exchange for our time and energy. A day care center, and lunch room well stocked with healthy snacks and a big fridge for bag lunches would also go a long way in showing respect and appreciation for the people who do the work that makes a good product or service. Shower rooms are not necessary unless you're employing homeless people on a regular bases. Start expecting to be treated better and STOP believing that they only want slaves. Who the hell wants to be a warden do a bunch of slaves?

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Sen Senz
Sayenne H4 years ago

Hope this gets done everywhere

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Sen Senz
Sayenne H4 years ago

I totally agree

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Karen F.
Karen P4 years ago

Yes, the doctor's note nonsense benefits only the doctors, and it's ridiculous, insulting and demeaning when people should be home recuperating than dragging themselves out of bed to visit a doctor to get a certificate. It's tantamount to calling your employees liars and/or idiots who need a doctor to tell them they're sick.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran4 years ago

No More Doctor’s Notes for Sick Employees. cannot agree with this one more. my gp is very popular in my area and his waiting room looks like a state hospital with long queues. i only go in when it's something serious. i don't want to sit in a queue for a cold when i should be in bed resting because the company needs a sick note!

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Jeff Floss
Jeff Floss4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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jan l.
jan l4 years ago

One more to add to the list, please: an onsite Day Care Center! The company can either provide it 'comp' or at a very nominal / competitive cost. The amount of absenteeism would decrease, productivity would increase, and the parents/employees would be better able to focus on their job, knowing that their child/children are being cared for onsite. No more 'latch key kids". No more TV or video game babysitters. Companies spend thousands of dollars just trying to hire a new person ~ generate a program to promote from within. You've be cultivating a ripe, eager, garden of qualified and loyal, honest employees. Actually, the program would pay for itself ~~ over and over and over again. Please consider it! Thank you ~

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Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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