A Publication of WTVP

Healthcare costs for employers are skyrocketing. Many companies are looking for new paradigms about health and wellness to control costs and increase employee productivity. This paradigm shift about employee health requires change on many levels. Change is required from the boardroom to the employee break room. Let’s look at some numbers as to why these changes are needed:

These statistics are very persuasive in exemplifying a need for change in the way corporations look at the impact of employee health on the bottom line. An employee spends the majority of his/her waking hours at work during the week. What better format does an employer have than the workplace to support an employee to make healthy changes in his/her lifestyle?

As Robert Bacal said in “Managing Change—Step by Step Change Implementation for Change Leaders,” “There are two types of change. First there is change that results from external forces requiring change, and where those required to change have little control over the planning, nature and execution of the change. Second, there is ‘planned change’ where those directly involved have an opportunity to plan, strategize, implement and control the changes. Of course, these often overlap.”

We will look primarily at how a company can support employees to make “planned changes” around their own healthcare. A company cannot dictate to an employee to exercise or eat well, but it can influence how that employee thinks about health on a daily basis. Companies can be facilitators for healthy changes in their employees’ lives.

Once a decision has been made toward a “culture of wellness” at the corporate level, a company can put support strategies into effect to encourage employees to create sustainable change around their personal wellness. These support strategies consist of:

  1. Adopting wellness as a core value of the company by the entire management team
  2. Implementing wellness programs to increase employee awareness
  3. Educating management and employees on the stages of change to empower employees to create personal change.

Top-Down Leadership
From the CEO on down, the top leadership must make wellness a priority for themselves. Commitment from the top management will ensure employees understand this is more than the newest initiative. Wellness is considered a core value of the company. Employees come to understand that thinking and making decisions about wellness is expected from everyone. A positive decision to become healthier will not only help the employee personally, but will also be looked on favorably at work, creating a true win-win for the employee.

Managers must be aware that clear work boundaries assist employees in making healthier choices for themselves. These include:

  1. Reasonable work hours allow employees to prepare healthy meals, exercise and rest.
  2. Clear, attainable goals allow employees to finish projects or meet sales projections, increasing confidence and productivity while decreasing stress.
  3. Training managers in conflict resolution. Positive conflict resolution gives employees the chance to make good decisions during stressful times. This process increases teamwork and keeps small problems from becoming big problems.

Lastly, the leadership should extend their healthy corporate image to the community. A corporate program of supporting sports events or community health screenings reinforces employees’ understanding that wellness is a company’s core belief. Corporate participation in these events also offers opportunities for employees to assist in planning or volunteering.

Empowering Employees With the Tools to Change
Full-time employees spend a majority of their waking hours at work. There is no better place than work to educate and empower employees to make better health choices in their lives. The company can set up educational programs for employees on a regular basis. Programs offered to employees can be:

Programs of this nature can be taught by subcontracted local experts or a wellness company can be hired to present them. These programs offer employees regular opportunities to change their behavior toward healthy lifestyles.

Understanding and Using the Model for Change
Another corporate support strategy is to ensure both managers and employees understand the steps within an individual’s change process. This allows all the employees to have a common language to work through to change together. The simple model, as stated in Bacal’s article, is easy to use:

Both managers and peer employees can be of service to fellow employees by understanding and encouraging others to move to the next step in a change process. Also, if a personal change process has stalled, the employee can look to where the process broke down and try a new strategy.

Incorporating these strategies to support healthy change in employees can have a profound effect for both the employee’s health and the bottom line. In Healthy Work Force 2010 Partnership for Prevention, this data was stated:

Change is rarely easy. It can be difficult for a company and for an individual. But a company that encourages positive, healthy change can enjoy the knowledge of doing the right thing and improve productivity and profits for its efforts. Another win-win situation. iBi