What is Workplace Wellness?

Did you know that more than seventy-five percent of chronic disease cases in
America are the direct result of individual lifestyle choices? According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, bad habits like an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, stress and smoking directly contribute to increased incidence of heart and lung disease, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and some forms of cancer. This rising prevalence of potentially avoidable diseases is one of the major forces driving health care spending out of control.

preventable-diseasesAn effective workplace wellness program can have a dramatic impact on the number of chronic disease cases in the workforce by preventing them from developing in the first place. Much like workplace safety programs, which are now commonplace across the US, workplace wellness programs are designed to stop problems before they happen.

The use of effective workplace wellness programs and policies can reduce health risks and health claims while improving the quality of life for employees. Maintaining a healthier workforce not only lowers direct costs like insurance premiums and worker’s compensation claims, but it can also have a powerful impact on indirect costs like absenteeism and worker productivity.

To improve the health of employees, businesses must create a culture that is wellness-centered; provides supportive environments where safety is ensured and good health is encouraged; and provide access and opportunities for employees to participate in workplace wellness programs.

Workplace wellness programs refer to a coordinated and comprehensive set of strategies which include programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to meet the health and safety needs of all employees.

Examples of workplace wellness program components and strategies include:

  • Health education classes
  • Access to local fitness facilities
  • Policies that promote healthy behaviors such as a tobacco-free campus policy
  • Employee health insurance coverage for appropriate preventive screenings
  • A healthy work environment such as making healthy foods available in vending machines and cafeterias
  • A work environment free of recognized health and safety threats with a means to identify and address new problems as they arise
  • Access to Health Coaches to support individual behavior change

Workplace wellness programs have the power to effect change at both the individual and the organization levels. For individuals, workplace wellness programs have the potential to improve health behaviors and health status while lowering health risks for disease. For organizations, workplace wellness programs have the potential to lower health care costs, lower rates of absenteeism, increase productivity, and improve recruitment/retention, culture and employee morale. Employers, workers, families and communities all benefit from sustained health and the prevention of disease and injury.