The reasons that motivate this work vary by company, but the fact remains that without improving employee health, we can't improve healthcare.
In fact, many companies will soon be unable to afford healthcare at all.
This sounds extreme, but it is a fact of life for many companies that healthcare will simply be too expensive.
It has already become their second-highest expense after payroll, so how will they be able to keep it going with an increase in cost every year? The answer is as simple as the problem.
They will have to figure out a way to stop the increasing costs.
That is what most companies are doing.
That is their number one reason to implement wellness programs.
They are trying to prevent illness and chronic conditions that are going to lead to higher medical costs.
As they prevent these medical costs, their insurance costs go down.
That is what wellness is all about: Preventing health issues by teaching employees how to live healthy lifestyles.
The goal of a wellness program is nothing more than getting employees to change their habits in order to improve their health.
If they are already living healthy, the goal is to keep them doing it by supporting their good habits.
Support is the key to any wellness program.
Without it, the program will not succeed.
There are many kinds of support when it comes to any corporate program.
In this case, I am talking about supporting the employees.
More specifically, supporting the employees by making sure that they have the following information readily available to them: - What problems they are dealing with - How serious their problems are - What resources are available to help them with these problems What problems are they dealing with? The problems that employees are dealing with are things like high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and many other things that are becoming more common every year.
With over 30 percent of our population falling into the category of obese, among the 60 percent that are overweight, it is no wonder these problems are becoming more and more common.
Often it is weight that leads to additional problems.
It starts as nothing more than a few extra pounds, but it turns into decreased life-expectancy, catastrophic and incredibly costly events.
You would think that avoiding death, heart attacks and strokes would be enough motivation to watch blood pressure, cholesterol or even just weight.
Because it is difficult to get employees to even look at these problems, it becomes imperative to share as much information with them as possible.
The more light a company can shed on health facts, numbers and the importance of keeping risk factors in check, the better they are able to get employees to focus on healthy behaviors.
It is not enough to tell employees to change their habits.
They have to understand why they would want to change and be supported in their efforts to do so.
Employees don't always want help.
In fact, they often don't think they need help.
That is where understanding how serious health problems really are becomes the most important factor and the best lesson a company can offer to employees.
How serious are employee health problems? To put it nicely: health problems in the American workforce are running rampant.
To put it bluntly: The American workforce is killing itself and taking their companies with it.
Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, you have to agree that there is a big problem in our country.
The problem is not just the individual and all of their health concerns.
The problem is that there isn't more concern.
People don't know they have a problem until it's too late.
Many still don't think they have a problem even after being told by a doctor.
Unfortunately, the problems are so common that they are not seen as problems.
They are seen as minor details that will be addressed "someday".
Because they are becoming so common, it almost seems normal that they are experiencing it because they hear more and more about it each year.
Turn on the news and you'll see the waist-level camera shots showing the obese Americans walking around in crowded places.
Open the paper and you will see statistics showing the rise in chronic conditions and costs to treat them.
You will even see stories on how companies have changed their policies to help their people deal with this and reverse the trend internally.
But what impact is it having on the people reading these stories? Impact only comes with influence.
A company has more influence over its employees than anyone else.
Think about it: you go to work every day, complete task just as they ask you to.
You get there when they want you to and you don't leave until they say it is ok.
That sounds like some pretty serious influence to me.
Companies train employees on all kinds of systems.
The most successful companies are now also training employees on health because it is affecting their business just as much as anything else.
Health itself is a problem for many people.
These people are employed by companies that are paying for each and every one of the problems.
Because they are preventable, there is hope.
You've heard it called an epidemic.
You've heard it called a trend.
What we need to hear is how it really affects each person.
Employees already know that blood pressure should be 120 over 80 or below.
They already know that they should watch their numbers, but they are not doing it or have watched and are waiting for something to happen before they change anything.
Would people change if they knew that high blood pressure at age 50 means taking 5 years off of your life expectancy? I think that would have some influence on them.
What resources are available to help them with these problems? Every company that has wellness in place needs resources.
They need information, ideas and they need support.
Employees need information, ideas and support.
When the company is supported, they can support employees.
When employees are supported, they can make changes and actually take the information given to them and use it for good.
The third part of this equation is really just communicating the resources available to employees.
We have already talked about how employees need to know what is going on with them.
If they understand the problems they are dealing with, they can make changes to improve their situation.
We have also talked about how serious the problems really are.
Health is not something to be taken lightly and even minor health problems lead to major expenses for employer and employee.
Now that we have covered the importance of those areas, the final piece is to help employees feel that they are equipped to make the progress that they need to make.
It's not enough to point out a problem without offering a solution.
It's not enough to point out a problem and raise alarms about how serious the problem is if you are not going to offer solutions.
That doesn't help anyone.
It costs time and money to keep employees informed.
It is great to keep them informed on health info, but you also need to get them information on ways to improve their health.
A successful wellness program not only invests this time, but also invests in the process to make sure that change is being made.
We already have big problems in business, but if we don't help employees understand the importance of solving their own health problems, they will continue to be our company problems in the form of healthcare costs and an underperforming workforce.
Some companies are still thinking about how to get started, but it is imperative that they do something.
Even if it isn't perfect to start, you have to do something to impact healthcare costs.
These costs are going up while your employee health is going down.
They will keep moving in that direction unless your company takes action to stop it.
This trend is costly and it proves one thing: It cost far more time (lost productivity) and money (healthcare costs, employee turnover, lost work days, etc) to do nothing.