When it comes to running a business, there’s no doubt that the health and safety of your workforce will directly affect your bottom line. Therefore it’s ultimately wise to take the wellbeing of your employees into consideration, ensuring that the workplace is safe and promotes a healthy lifestyle for employees. Safety and wellness arguably covers a lot of territory, so its applications in each different business or organization will vary. Most often this will fall into the human resources department, depending on how your company is structured. But no matter the size or scope of your operations, if you have a program in place that fits your needs and goals, the benefits of healthy and happy employees who are completely comfortable in the work environment and encouraged to be better people every day will speak for themselves—loud and clear.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Small Business Handbook, which can be found online at www.osha.gov and offers a wealth of information about workplace wellness and safety, when an effective program is implemented there are numerous benefits for both the employer and the employee. “Addressing safety and health issues in the workplace saves the employer money and adds value to the business. Recent estimates place the business costs associated with occupational injuries at close to $170 billion — expenditures that come straight out of company profits.
When workers stay injury free and healthy, the direct cost-savings to businesses include lower workers’ compensation insurance costs, reduced medical expenditures, smaller expenditures for return-to-work programs, fewer faulty products, lower costs for job accommodations for injured workers, and less money spent for overtime benefits. Safety and health also make big reductions in indirect costs, due to increased productivity, higher quality products, increased morale, better labor/management relations, reduced turnover and better use of human resources. Employees and their families benefit from safety and health because their incomes are protected, their family lives are not hindered by injury, and their stress is not increased. Simply put, protecting people on the job is in everyone’s best interest — our economy, our communities, our fellow workers and our families. Safety and health add value to businesses, workplaces and lives.”
“Effective workplace interventions that protect both workers’ safety and health is growing with popularity across the country,” advises Karen Rehm, Corporate Wellness Coordinator for Madonna Fit for Work. “Significant costs to businesses can be prevented through employment screenings, ergonomic assessments and ‘best practices’ for essential job functions. For example, when an employee is injured, the impact has a rippling effect. Income loss, short staffing and potential long-term costs can add up quickly for the individual and the employer. In addition, comprehensive wellness programming has been shown to decrease absenteeism, improve retention, increase morale and reduce worker injury.
Madonna Fit for Work is unique in offering companies both corporate wellness and occupational health services designed to help employers reduce health care costs and motivate employees to make healthier lifestyle choices. More than 70% of health care costs are the direct result of lifestyle choices. Fit for Work’s Registered Dietitians, wellness coaches and program development experts provide you with the right mix of on-site programs, formats and tools to engage employees. Three key service areas include:
Wellness Services: On-site Health Screenings, Health Risk Assessment (HRA), Disease Management and Risk Reduction Programs, Wellness Coaching (on-site, telephonic and e-coaching), Annual Weight Management Programs, Worksite Wellness Challenges, Stress Management Programs, Tobacco Cessation Series, Nutrition Education, Lunch and Learns & On-The-Go Events, and ProActive Corporate Membership.
Injury Prevention Services: Pre-Employment / Post-offer Screens, Work-Site Ergonomics, Functional Job Analysis/Physical Demands Validation, Drugs Screens, Customized Stretching Programs, and Audiometric Screening.
Injury Management Services: Physician Experts, Independent Medical Exams (IME’s), Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCE’s), Physical & Occupational Therapy, and Service Coordination.
Whether your business is just starting a wellness program or has an established one, we can help expand your program’s impact. We customize our services to fit your unique culture, meet the health needs and interests of your employees and help drive health improvements.
Madonna Fit for Work’s Occupational Health and Wellness experts are dedicated to helping employers reduce costs through a continuum of services that promote employee health, wellness and safety. Evidence suggests that a holistic and strategic integration of occupational health, safety and workplace wellness helps better protect and improve worker health. Our injury prevention and injury management programs led by medical experts, and our corporate wellness programs focus on improving the overall health and wellbeing of employees through integrative initiatives. With a ‘built to suit’ strategy, every program is tailored to meet the needs of each organization and each employee. The Fit for Work Corporate Hotline simplifies the process with just one number to call to schedule services needed and get answers to your questions. The hotline is the hub for communications, coordinating information between the employer, employee, medical providers and wellness experts.”
Focused on the individual, she further advises, “Want to improve your work performance? Boosting physical activity and eating healthy throughout your work day is key to increased brainpower, improved energy and productivity. The time to move is now! The American Heart Association encourages at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Even more if you are trying to lose or maintain weight loss. Plan to burn at least 250 calories each day through physical activity. Select foods to enhance your physical and mental functions. Eat lean proteins, spinach, lintel beans, herring, salmon and trout. Avoid skipping meals. Your body depends on calories for fuel. No fuel equals no energy to make it through your work day.”
The driving idea behind workplace wellness initiatives is that public health in the United States can be improved by building “cultures of health” that support healthy lifestyles. While our health should always be at the forefront of our decisions and actions, because it’s THAT important no matter the location or circumstances, workplace wellness is an area that’s constantly growing and evolving because of all that we are learning more about how our health directly impacts overall job performance.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), “A workplace health program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes while at work. These programs consist of activities such as health education and coaching, weight management programs, medical screenings, on-site fitness programs, and more.
Workplace health programs also include policies intended to facilitate employee health, including allowing time for exercise, providing on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering healthful food options in vending machines, holding ‘walk and talk’ meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. Effective workplace programs, policies, and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to significantly benefit employers, employees, their families, and communities.”
“A good wellness culture should involve education,” agrees Brad Schmitt, DC, owner of Schmitt Chiropractic & Rehab. “Health fairs, screenings, blood drives, and other things of that nature are all good to incorporate with employees, but education is the most important aspect. Offering lunch and learns on health topics is a great way to start with this. Employees will take more ownership if they understand why something simple like eating a bagel every morning can make them less productive at work. It not only affects their work life, but their family and social life as well. Also, providing access to healthy snacks, a healthy cafeteria, and fitness center are great if feasible for the company.
Workplaces have changed greatly over the years, particularly due to our reliance on computers that has increased the amount of time we spend sitting at our desks during the work day, but that’s just one example among many. Dr. Schmitt adds, “One of the biggest concerns with workplace wellness is the need to address the long term health effects of sitting all day. There is a lot of research on the detrimental effects that sitting has on many aspects of our health. Sitting is unavoidable to some extent for many companies, but there are things that can be done minimize its ill effects.
Staying physically fit is one of the best ways to stay mentally focused at work. Not only does it make you feel better physically, but you will have more mental clarity and less burnout if you make exercise a part of your daily routine. Also, healthy eating habits are a huge factor in both mental and physical fatigue. Basing meals around protein and vegetables and avoiding foods that will cause you to ‘crash’ is important. Pasta, bread, bagels, and other foods like that will leave you hungry quicker, and unable to concentrate.
We offer lunch and learn programs for different types of health and fitness topics. We also do injury screenings and complimentary Active Release treatment, which is great for any company that deals with repetitive use injuries.”
“It is important when designing a workplace wellness program to have the basic understanding that wellness starts with the individual,” adds Kathi Bratberg, owner of Eat Well Nutrition & Wellness. “We are each responsible for ourselves and our own health habits. It is something we all must work towards and there’s no magic way to make it happen otherwise. When translated to something that is effective within the workplace, it then becomes all about support. How is your business or organization supporting the overall wellness of each of its employees? Providing resources that make it easier for employees to have access to healthy options that will benefit them most is paramount. Encouragement is important also—it all starts at the top. When positive choices are offered, it reinforces the importance of making better decisions and this becomes easier to follow through with on a daily basis. In playing the supportive role, you’ll be giving your employees the tools that will help them to be better advocates for their own health and wellbeing.
Weight loss initiatives and friendly competition in the workplace is generally fun and motivating. However those that promote a lifestyle change, not just a 21 day effort, will be the most effective in the long run as there is more of a focus on better health habits instead of merely judging results based on the metrics of weight alone. Incorporating wellness initiatives in a group setting does stimulate people to act as well as teaching them new things. The educational piece is crucial; you must have the appropriate knowledge in order to make a positive, lasting change.
Even incorporating small, relatively easy changes like implementing a smoke-free workplace or including healthy options in the vending machines can have a big effect on the culture of wellness in your workplace. You may also consider options for more physical activity including routine breaks for getting up and moving around, providing a fitness center onsite, setting up a rewards program, or pairing up with a gym to offer your employees a reduced membership. A program that sticks to the basics and incorporates preventative aspects is the key to keeping your workforce healthy and energized so they are at maximum production with minimum down time.”
“Work days can be hectic and packed full of things that need to get done, so it’s important to have healthy options available when you need to grab a bite to eat,” agrees Sean Fuller, owner of Just Good Meat. “Nutrition is paramount to functioning at an optimal level, affecting everything from mood to energy levels and avoiding illness, which are all related to productivity. It’s all about incorporating the right mix of healthy foods in the appropriate portions.
From the viewpoint of the employee, meal preparation is key. Planning for at least three days in advance, if not a week, will keep you on track and help you avoid eating junk just because it’s the most convenient choice—or the only choice. For this exact reason, to make life easier for all of our clients we put together a 7 Day Meal Plan package that’s available in our store or even for delivery. This includes 4 6oz boneless skinless chicken breasts, 2 7oz sirloin steaks, 2 8oz salmon filets, 2 8oz boneless pork chops, and your choice of 1lb of ground buffalo or ground elk for $49.99. These are designed to make life easier, with all-natural, lean sources of protein that are perfectly portioned and can be prepared in many different ways so you’ll avoid getting bored with your diet.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat healthy, I can’t stress enough that meal preparation is the key to success. It takes more planning and effort, but it’s well worth it in terms of the outcomes and benefits. Exercise is also an important factor, but you can go to the gym all you want and if you’re not eating the right foods in the right portions, you’re simply not going to see any results.
From the company perspective, providing healthy meal options for employees that are easily accessible is a way to encourage them to make better decisions, even if it’s just for lunch. We offer catering services with many healthy options available as well as corporate pricing and discounts. With so many different options to choose from, it helps us to customize the meal based on any number of factors or dietary restrictions.
We welcome anyone interested in putting together a meal plan or adding a nutrition element to a workplace wellness program to stop by the store, give us a call at (402) 339-7474, or visit our website at Just Good Meat (www.justgoodmeatomaha.com) – we are always here to help!”
Balance is the key to wellness, and although finding it in the midst of everything else going on in the workplace day-to-day can be challenging, it’s critical when looking at the bigger picture. Dr. Christopher Asandra of NuMale Medical Centers offers perspective from what he’s seen among his male clientele that affects overall health and wellbeing:
“All too often, men sacrifice their health for their work or their families. They neglect going to the doctor. They skip the gym to get in a few hours of extra face time with the boss. They have that extra drink at the networking reception or grab a quick slice of pizza for lunch so they can spend more time focusing on their job. Ultimately, though, these tradeoffs make us less effective at work, not more. Studies have shown time and again that men who take care of themselves are more focused and more driven. They’re also more likely to get raises and promotions because they have the mental capacity to focus on the things that really deliver value. Eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can make a real difference at work, and your doctor can help you address any issues that might be getting in the way. I always counsel my patients to make these things a priority. It’s good for their health, of course, but it’s also good for their career.
Companies can do many things to encourage their employees to live healthier lives. And these things pay dividends measurable in real dollars and cents. Healthy employees are more productive, and they take fewer sick days. Helping ease the cost of health insurance is important, of course, and so is providing sick days (and encouraging people to actually use them when they’re sick). But companies can do lots of other things to help people get healthy. Incentives to quit smoking or to maintain a healthy weight (even if it’s just an office-wide competition) can be powerful motivators. So can ensuring that people have easy access to healthful food for lunch and beverages with little or no sweeteners – like water, coffee and tea. Many companies have gyms or provide gym memberships. This is great too, but only if people take advantage of it. Furthermore, sitting in an office all day is, quite frankly, terrible for you. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the most common causes of serious health problems. Employers should try to create a space where it’s acceptable to get up and move around. Make standing desks available. Maybe even get a treadmill desk. Remind your employees to get up and take a lap around the building. Though it may seem counterintuitive, anything you can do to encourage people to get up from their desks occasionally will pay dividends.
There are so many simple, cost-effective methods for keeping employees healthy and happy. Employers should consider it incumbent upon themselves to provide these options; healthy employees are simply more productive. It doesn’t have to break the bank, and it can be as simply as reevaluating existing policies. For example, some companies require a doctor’s note for sick days. This is a terrible idea. Men don’t go to the doctor, so they’ll show up sick to work instead, possibly infecting more people and driving productivity way down. Allowing – and encouraging – your employees to rest and recover when they’re feeling under the weather will go a long way toward improving morale, performance and wellness. Ultimately, companies that encourage employees to take care of themselves reap the benefits of a focused, productive workforce. Healthy employees will lead to a healthy company!”
Avoiding burnout has indeed become a major point of focus, as nowadays we are all constantly on-the-go and wearing so many hats. Furthermore, it’s far more common to work longer than a 40-hour work week or to have more than one job in modern times. There are many things that could potentially cause burnout, in our personal lives and work lives, that we need to be mindful of and take care of ourselves in order to avoid. Ellen Bennett, Respite Resource Center Coordinator for Partnerships in Caregiving, emphasizes the importance of self-care and offers advice on how to combat burnout, particularly for those who are caregivers for loved ones:
“Individuals can do so many things to improve their performance at work. One that we at Partnerships in Caregiving emphasize is ‘self-care.’ We all have so many things going on – work responsibilities, personal issues, family issues…the list goes on and on. Self-care can sometimes be placed on the back burner but it is very important to take time for you – reading a book or magazine, singing in the car, connecting through social media, taking a few minutes to drink your favorite coffee or tea with a friend, to name just a few things. Social interactions are always good— they let one know he/she is not alone.
A trend that we are seeing in the United States is that more family caregivers are in the labor force and juggling demands of work, caregiving and other family responsibilities. We believe that it is important for those family caregivers to be aware of services such as respite (taking a break) and we at Partnerships in Caregiving are available to assist them in finding those respite providers and even navigating the funding sources available.
At the Eastern Region of the Statewide Respite Network we assist those family caregivers with finding Respite providers. You may be asking – am I a caregiver? If you are providing care to someone in your family with special needs (a child, your spouse, your sibling, your father) – you are a caregiver.
What is respite? A break from the caregiving duties of those family members with special needs whether it be a child with autism or a mother with Alzheimer’s disease. We match the family caregiver with a respite provider who has skill sets that match the needs of the care recipient, allowing those family caregivers an opportunity to relax and let someone else provide the care for their loved one at least for a short period of time. This break can encourage the caregiver to relax, take care of their own needs, and in some cases, just be able to work without worrying that their loved one is alone or in need of care. Of course those individuals who are also providing caregiving duties to their family members at home are overworked already, so we would like to see businesses take a more proactive approach too. This includes sharing information about respite and other services with their employees who also may be acting as caregivers to their family members when they are ‘off the clock.’
It is our hope that all businesses will begin to see that many of their employees may be caregivers or will be in the future as our population ages. Offering those employees more options besides the standard healthcare or vacation days will be a great asset to their business. Please contact our office (402) 996-8444 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.”
Implementing health and safety programs and initiatives in the workplace is crucial to the future success of your business or organization, mainly because they’ve become commonplace as a vital contributing factor to a company culture that attracts the best employees. However, as you can see, there are many things to take into consideration when it comes to finding the best fit for your organization. If you’re thinking about implementing a new program or would like to improve upon your existing one, make sure to consult the local experts so that your efforts match your goals and are indeed mutually beneficial. Happy and healthy employees are one of the greatest assets to a business, so it makes sense to create an environment that reinforces the importance of both attributes – and doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk too!