A Holistic Approach to Wellness in the Workplace

Megan Berry Barlow, Human Resources Director, Nebraska Furniture Mart

Megan Berry Barlow, Human Resources Director, Nebraska Furniture MartMegan Berry Barlow, Human Resources Director, Nebraska Furniture Mart

It's no secret that healthy employees make a company’s workforce more productive. A correctly-designed wellness program can increase productivity, boost employee morale, and reduce stress. These programs help employees make smarter and healthier choices that can reduce healthcare costs, increase vitality, and reduce absenteeism. Thus, one can safely say that the costs of implementing a wellness program are minimal when compared to the advantages it brings along with it.

Moving Toward Holistic Wellness Programs

Often, employees find out about their chronic illnesses, such as hypertension and diabetes, only after they go through a health screening at their workplace. This is mostly because many employees do not feel the need, or have the time to do regular health checkups. Sometimes, it is also common to see employees working when they are feeling ill. All these acts result in lowering performance levels and decreasing overall productivity. For most other employees, while they want to attain a healthy lifestyle, they struggle to navigate through complicated health plans. At Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), we follow a holistic wellness model to provide a personalized approach to employee health and wellness. We have put significant efforts to spread awareness about the various health benefit plans among our employees, and help them access it easily. NFM also offers a program that provides a health coach to set goals for an employee and closely monitor their performance to reward them as they move along the wellness journey. Health goals can include lowering body mass index, blood pressure, and accomplishing a fitness hurdle.

Following the personalized approach toward employee health and wellness initiatives, NFM has partnered with a company offering concierge navigator-type services to develop an app for identifying alternative, low-cost medication. The goal is to not only save the expense for an employee but also the insurance company. I think we have grown accustomed to the idea that helping employees save money is the foremost priority, but if healthcare plan rates continue to rise on a yearly basis, then in the long term, employees are at a disadvantage. The app is used by many of our employees, and within the first six months, it has resulted in savings of almost 150,000 dollars.

"At Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), we follow a holistic wellness model to provide a personalized approach to employee health and wellness "

A Focus on Mental Health

Apart from physical health, we are also focusing tremendously on mental health aspects. For instance, we have launched a program called #IWillListen based on suicide awareness and prevention. The idea behind the initiative is to listen to and support those people who are struggling with their personal issues. While we may not be certified medical health practitioners, we can engage in a conversation with colleagues in a workplace and aid those in need. This program has received an extremely positive response at NFM. Moreover, using a hash tag made it easier for people to spread awareness about the initiative on social media and to share their personal experiences.

Financial and Physical Wellness Initiatives Intertwines

As a person that oversees all the facets of human resources within NFM, I find it very disheartening to see that most employees have negligible retirement savings. It could be surmised that they struggle with budgeting at its most basic sense or they may not take advantage of their ability to plan and save for day-to-day living expenses. While I agree that the idea of saving every penny for retirement is not the most appealing strategy, short-term to long-term savings are however quite essential. At NFM, we have developed a couple of financial wellness programs aimed at helping employees achieve specific monetary goals that go beyond weekly groceries and car payments, among others. These programs ensure that employees understand the benefits associated with various plans such as health insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance, to name a few, and its impact on long-term financial wellness. A common reason for poor credit today is due to unsettled healthcare bills, which shows that financial wellness is tied to physical wellness as well.

One of the key challenges for maintaining employee wellness is spreading awareness of a healthy lifestyle. Many people ignore chronic diseases, including diabetes and high cholesterol. They wait until the illness reaches its critical stage; a point from which it is difficult to turn around and recover completely. Therefore, it is important to help employees engage in wellness programs and make them recognize the effects on long-term health. NFM conducts regular onsite health screenings where employees can view their results online. If they have any questions regarding the test results, they can immediately consult a health coach. We aim to strike when the iron is hot, and thus we help employees receive guidance from healthcare professionals to make the necessary lifestyle changes from the very beginning.

Evolution of the Employee Wellness Space

The employee wellness space, as a solution to rising healthcare costs,is utterly unsustainable. The only long-term solution to control healthcare costs is to use data derived from different wellness programs and utilization and analyze healthcare costs for each employee. However, for all these initiatives to be successful at the end of the day, employers need to be committed to the wellbeing of their employees and ensure that they take the necessary steps required to pursue a healthier lifestyle. An employee wellness program may seem daunting when you think in terms of business revenue, claims, and processes. Nonetheless, you have to remember that there is a person behind all of those metrics, a human being that wants to live their life to the fullest. I feel proud that NFM supports their employees at this level.

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