Management Needs to Take the Lead in Employee Wellness Program Participation

by: Nichole Gunn November 29, 2010

Combating rising healthcare costs has been a primary consideration for businesses. These businesses have taken the necessary steps to encourage employee engagement and implemented corporate wellness programs to help battle the problem.

But, with the economy’s ‘slow to go’ situation, a number of businesses have found it necessary to “create organizational stress and seem to contradict their public support for employee well-being,” according to management consultant Kathleen Drummond, in an article for Smart Business. This creates a problematic work environment.

Numerous studies have found that “work force well-being, which encompasses employees’ physical, social and emotional health, has been linked to reduced absenteeism, improved outcomes and sustained engagement.” If programs are cut, such as wellness programs, and/or the employee workload and stress is higher, it will affect employee morale, along with employee health.

Long hours and overwork will often lead to employees missing doctor appointments, missing regular exercise routines, and missing healthy meals. This can exacerbate chronic illnesses as well as increase the employees’ risk of getting ill.

“Unless executives balance their concerns for the bottom line with the need for employee well-being, recent gains in controlling health care costs could be in jeopardy,” notes the consultant.

Advising on how to improve employee health and well-being while juggling the bottom line, Drummond suggests:

  • Be an example. Employees will follow your lead, so show them that you keep a normal pace and are recommitting yourself to your health. Participate in onsite healthcare programs.
  • Know what’s going on in your organization, even if it means walking the halls. Acknowledge the impact the company’s actions have on the employees, and assure them you are doing all you can to make the inconvenience short term.
  • Incorporate wellness champions. They are a committee that acts as “a sounding board for executives and even suggest ways to enhance productivity without compromising employee health.”
  • Be sure rewards are aligned with performance. “When people believe they are treated fairly and are appreciated, they are willing to give more of their time and creative energy.”

Management personnel need to be attuned to their employees and be sensitive to increased workloads by recognizing and rewarding efforts by employees. The benefits will be worthwhile, as demonstrated by a study conducted by University of Michigan: the calculated total company savings of a Midwest Utility company’s wellness program amounted to more than $5 million over nine years.