Episode 41 – The Importance of Workplace Health Promotion Programs

health and wellness coaching
 
 
Workplace health promotion programs hold great value to preventing employee turnover. They help employees be healthier and able to achieve peak performance, making such programs a staple in many organizations.  Who doesn’t want and retain a top-notch performer? In the end, workplace health programs help keep their employees happy and productive, while also retaining them long enough for the company to profit. And they do this by preventing chronic disease from setting in. Many workplaces have health & wellness committees, created by the employees themselves. Did you know that 80% of employees who work at companies with robust health and wellness programs feel engaged and cared for by their employers? 
 
In this episode on The Importance Of Workplace Health Promotion Programs “ I discuss:

– why people are burning out at work.
– what health & wellness has to do with corporate responsibility.
– what one journalist had to say that went against much of the literature. 
– the practice of understanding the media’s context
– how employee health improves organizational health
– what you can do to develop a program at work
https://oembed.libsyn.com/embed?item_id=11792834

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Why do people burnout?

In a prior post on the importance of self-regulation in adults, I pointed-out that there are 3 common reasons health practitioners have that causes them to burnout. One of the reasons is the employer doesn’t allow them enough time outside of work to recover. Now that applies mostly to health professionals who are working twelve hour shifts. But, burnout is a physiological phenomenon and what I’m about to share holds true across all industries. Here are the 3 reasons for people burning-out:

  1. Too big of a workload.
  2. Their family and personal lives are challenged due to job
  3. The employment doesn’t allow them enough time outside of work to recover (see episode 38 on what to do on your day off work).

Banish Burnout Bootcamp

What does health & wellness have to do with corporate responsibility? 

Health & Wellness has everything to do with corporate responsibility. If corporations support employees at preventing chronic disease they are creating an asset in the company. According to the World Health Organization “The workplace, along with the school, hospital, city, island, and marketplace, has been established as one of the priority settings for health promotion into the 21st century.” The CDC also sees great relevance to having a Workplace Health Model stating that “An investment in employee health may lower health care costs and insurance claims. In fact, employees with more risk factors, including being overweight, smoking and having diabetes, cost more to insure. And that additional cost will be handed off to the employers, as opposed to people with fewer risk factors.1, 2” What that means is corporations have everything to do with keeping their employees healthy. 

The WHO also goes on to support that “The workplace directly influences the physical, mental, economic and social well-being of workers and in turn the health of their families, communities and society. It offers an ideal setting and infrastructure to support the promotion of health of a large audience. The health of workers is also affected by non-work related factors.”  Is there a lack of awareness on the cost of losing an employee? No, I don’t think so at all. Losing an employee can cost at least 50% of their employees wage, depending upon their position. That number can go as high as costing the company 125% of the employee salary –  placing the health of the corporation at risk. 

 

What’s the media coverage on the topic? 

Well, I don’t think a whole lot. One day I was doing research on the topic of workplace health promotion programs, not thinking I’d be writing about it. I came across this article that contradicted everything I believe to be true and factual. The article contradicted the value of corporate health and wellness programs to enhance healthy lifestyles. The journalist from the NYTimes said the complete opposite – that there’s no value to workplace health promotion programs! So this is where we’re at in 2019? We’re about to enter 2020, not 1999!

 

Satori Radio, Satori Health & Wellness Coaching Ltd, Episode 41: The Importance Of Workplace Health Promotion Programs

 

The journalist simply wrote a brief post that “ “Employee Wellness Programs Yield Little Benefit”. I linked up to the original Study here, and I’ll discuss that study a little further along.

The journalist lacked a complete and thorough analysis of the study. Here’s my bias: this very rhetoric was the topic of my graduate thesis research, except my research involved a discourse analysis of the media’s coverage regarding The Health Effects of Genetically Modified Organisms, not anything related to workplace health promotion programs. But I still did research on the rhetorical analysis of journalism. So I feel pretty fit to talk about this article. 

The Practice of Understanding Media’s Context 

I researched issues related to where publics form their opinions on matters related to their food choices, health and wellness. The media is one such institution. My research questions centred upon the forms of persuasion used by these “experts” to back-up their content.  This journalist hardly backed-up his research.  And that bothered me. It bothered me because he didn’t do an analysis of workplace health overall. There is plenty of research to support health and wellness committees who do viable and sustainable work. The journalist just stated one study.

Here’s my bias:  I have an invested interest at keeping our Workplaces healthy. This is the direction in which I’m taking Satori Health & Wellness Coaching with our upcoming 3-part training series: The Banish Burnout Bootcamp. I’m offering this for free to hospital organizations who are struggling with health practitioners who are burning and not adequately taking care of themselves.  

I’m not totally discrediting the journalist who wrote this article. I’m here to point-out that there are some missing components to back-up his statement: “Employee Wellness Programs Yield Little Benefit”. The journalist holds a valuable place in society to pose some important questions to engage public dialogue on a relevant issue of workplace health promotion programs in society. If this was read by the wrong executive who wanted to cut a budget, well…guess what’s going from this organization? The time allocated to the employee health & wellness committee. That article can negatively impact the culture of the organization, thus the health of the organization. 

The Study & Potential Flaws

The results of the study claimed: “there were no significant differences in other self-reported health and behaviours; clinical markers of health; health care spending or utilization; or absenteeism, tenure, or job performance after 18 months”.

As well, “The program had no significant effects on other pre-specified outcomes: 27 self-reported health outcomes and behaviors (including self-reported health, sleep quality, and food choices), 10 clinical markers of health (including cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass index), 38 medical and pharmaceutical spending and utilization measures, and 3 employment outcomes (absenteeism, job tenure, and job performance).

There were positive self-reported health behaviors but the interventions were minimal for this program. I didn’t notice the behavioural health assessment tool they use. I prefer to use  Pro-Change . These assessments can only be administered by a qualified health practitioner or coach. I happened to have been trained in applying these theoretical concepts. I applied them in my health promotion days, as a public health nurse. This is very sophisticated knowledge that not all coaches and health professionals are trained to apply. 

The study did point-out there were benefits in exercise; “After 18 months, the rates for 2 self-reported outcomes were higher in the intervention group than in the control group: for engaging in regular exercise (69.8% vs 61.9%) and for actively managing weight (69.2% vs 54.7%).”

 

 

Satori Health & Wellness Coaching Ltd, Satori Radio Podcast, Episode 21 - 3 Ways To Build A Healthy Routine

 

How Employee Health Improves Organizational Health?

So the study proved there were benefits in exercise. That’s fantastic!! Obviously,  ‘regular exercise’ is one strategy of building a healthy routine and wellness system. Exercise is also going to help serve the employee in the long run, helping them to strategically manage their stress levels. But the benefits of exercise might not actually show results immediately. Taking that one step further,  one might begin to enjoy exercise as a family or with a group. This added benefit could enhance the employees family and social life, thereby getting their life back on track. These activities might take time to show-up in the employers bottom-line. Yet the benefits in having an exercise program can change the employees outlook on personal life. 

How can you underestimate the value of a quality marriage to the employees daily satisfaction? The employer might actually get more wellbeing and productivity out of the employee. That’s as a direct result of the workplace program. In any case, the employer won’t know for sure if that employee was actually heading towards a stress leave. No one knows when your employee is going to decide to call in sick, for a week at a time. Stress can come from many different areas of one’s life.

Furthermore, the benefits of learning to meditate are they improve focus, productivity, creativity, decision making capacities, IQ, creativity and overall health and wellness. Those health-related benefits can certainly enhance the corporation. Meditation is what brings your mind into balance with your body, by eliminating interfering thoughts and stressors in order to achieve higher states of focus and concentration. At Satori Health & Wellness Coaching, we have a Learn To Meditate Course in the digital format now that doesn’t cost very much at all. 

 

How Can You Develop A Health Promotion Program At Work?

As I said, employee health promotion programs help the employer in many ways. First is to question if there a lack in consciousness in the value of workplace health promotion program itself?  Or is it that corporations know it would hold value, but they prefer to react when their employee is ill….by sending them to the Employee Assistance Program instead? Before you jump into developing a program, please look at the culture of your organization. How much time and resources will the employer allow you to dedicate to developing something?  

While there are many components to creating a thriving workplace health & wellness initiative. One resource I would suggest is to go to the CDC Workplace Health Promotion resource page. That would be a good start if you don’t have the budget to hire some like me. I can attest that it helps to have a general health & wellness perspective when it comes to workplace health promotion programs. What I mean is to not just hire a dietician who is looking at treating a symptom (as it appears in this study). Likewise, a fitness trainer. 

Healthy behaviour change in the workplace requires strategic assessments, workplace health redesign and a sustainable health strategy. That article I referred to earlier did not address all of these factors. 

If you want to develop a Health Promotion Program at work, and help your employees build healthy habits , know it takes more than a little dedication. It takes a supportive environment. My job is to help you, and the workplace, to facilitate that supportive environment in conjunction with the workplace. Look at what strengths people have in your workplace. You might have a personal trainer on staff who is willing to share their knowledge. We all have a need to contribute, but being healthy is about feeling empowered. 

What’s the evidence to support employee health programs?

Here’s some info based on a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services report in (2002):

>> Worksites with physical activity programs, employers have:
>> Reduced healthcare costs by 20 to 55 percent
>> Reduced short-term sick leave by six to 32 percentSubheading distribution
>> Increased productivity by two to 52 percent”

(Source: http://wellnessproposals.com/guide-to-worksite-wellness-programs/benefits-of-worksite-wellness-programs/)

By having the workplace recognize that employees are giving to their job for 1/3 of their waking hours, there’s bound to be potential for stress. I think it would be unwise of the employer to dismiss the fact workplace stress affects the remainder of their day. And the opposite holds true too – if workplace culture is poor, performance will be poor. Why not offer the employee the option of being healthy and well? Why not offer the employee strategies to effectively manage all 24 hours of their day? This requires time and patience, and a step-by-step process, which we offer through our program The Pro-Mind Experience.

References from the CDC:

  1. Yen L, Schultz A, Schnueringer E, Edington DW. Financial costs due to excess health risks among active employees of a utility company. J Occup Environ Med. 2006;48(9): 896-905.

2.  Goetzel, RZ, Anderson DR, Whitmer RW, Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL, and Wasserman J. The relationship between modifiable health risks and health care expenditures: an analysis of the multi-employer HERO health risk and cost database. J Occup Environ Med. 1998;40(10): 843-854.

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