Health and wellness tips for your HR department

Employers who embrace worksite wellness are likely to reap the benefits of better morale and higher profits


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Countless companies task their human resources manager with the added role of wellness coordinator. This can seemingly save money by having a current employee multi-task extra duties, but the dual roles can present numerous challenges, since the HR manager is likely already very busy and rarely possesses a background in health education.

Here are some tips to make managing the added task more successful:

• Introduce your workplace with an obvious culture of wellness. New hires will be more likely to focus on the importance of their own health if it is clear from the start that their new employer understands the value of employee wellness and makes it a priority. List it as a benefit when interviewing new hires. Remember, this is a two-way street. Why should they work for you if employee wellness appears to be ignored? In addition, employees often list wellness programs as a benefit that attracts them to an employer.

• Consider using a third-party vendor for your wellness program and partner with them. Studies show that a quality wellness program can provide a very attractive return on investment for employers. Typically, for every dollar spent on wellness, companies can expect a return of $2 to $6 in as little as two to five years. This not only makes the wellness program an investment, as opposed to an expense, but a very good one at that.

• Monitor employee participation to use as a measure of effectiveness. Too often, when participation is low, employers pressure employees to attend wellness initiatives. This is akin to leading a horse to water and trying to make the reluctant animal drink. The results are often counter-productive to the goal of inspiring employees to make better health decisions. 

Instead, find the root of the problem. Commonly, the issues include high work stress and pressure to remain on task, boring wellness activities or speakers, incentives that have lost their welcome, or poor timing of events. Anonymous surveys can be a great resource to find the root of the problem regarding low participation.

• Remember that a true culture of wellness involves supporting employee health outside of the planned wellness activities. For example, when employees take an unscheduled break and are chatting for a few minutes by the water cooler, refrain from automatically viewing this as unproductive time. For optimal health, employees should be physically moving their bodies at least once per hour and taking a mental and visual break from their work.

Conversing with co-workers helps build relationships that strengthen the team environment. In addition, employees typically discuss work issues and problems that can be solved during these times of collaboration. A superior walking by and taking a moment to say hi and ask how everything is going will contribute to employee wellness and productivity significantly more than if the superior rushes them back to work and leaves them feeling scolded.

• Support struggling employees as much as possible. Employees who approach HR with a problem or are summoned due to excessive absenteeism or low productivity are often struggling with personal issues that are bleeding into the workplace. Focusing on working with the employee to solve the problem, whenever possible, often results in employees who want to “give back” and their job loyalty increases in the process.

Employers who are quick to replace employees who “don’t measure up” may be sending a message of not supporting employee wellness and will also lose a significant amount of money in recruiting new hires – typically 30 percent of the employee’s annual salary. Partnering with the employee to solve the problem can, in the long run, be a benefit to the employer. The short-term loss will result in long-term gain.

All employees arrive at the workplace with their individual level of health and wellness attached, including their mental, physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses. Employers who embrace worksite wellness by promoting prevention and providing education and motivation to reduce existing health problems are likely to reap the benefits of better company morale and higher profits.  

Manchester-based wellness consultant Carol Phillips, award-winning author of “52 Simple Ways to Health,” can be reached through HealthDesignNH.com. 

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