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Boosting Employee Wellness through Effective Programs

By Jayme Mayo, PA-C/Wellness Director, Nabholz Corporation

Jayme Mayo, PA-C/Wellness Director, Nabholz Corporation

Healthy employees play a crucial role in boosting organizational productivity and performance. Although wearable technologies such as fitness trackers and smartwatches cater to people’s fitness needs, they are not entirely successful in moving the needle when it comes to employees’ health.

Implementing a Successful Wellness Program

There can be numerous challenges when implementing a successful wellness program, but the most notable for many businesses is leadership buy-in. While many leaders are hesitant and even skeptical because of perceived risk, they typically recognize the need to do something to contain healthcare costs. They just don’t know where to start. Too many times, companies are “sold” a product that is fluffy and feel good laced with points, credits, and wearables, but the reality is that it’s costly and ineffective. Then they either throw more money at it hoping for a better outcome or discontinue it altogether.

The second challenge is the increased pressure on HR professionals to run a wellness program while performing their core job responsibilities. With HR professionals clocking in over 40 hours a week, putting the responsibility of operating a wellness program on people who lack the expertise in nutrition, fitness, health, and medicine results in inefficiency and program credibility. Moreover, it leads to a failed wellness program, money poorly spent, and a burden to the HR personnel. To combat these issues, organizations need to have supportive executive leadership and a credentialed individual(s)who is/are thorough and experienced in the physical and mental health space.

Finally having a plan design that meets the needs of the employees while containing costs is crucial to the success of a wellness program. Most companies use a Participation-Based design where employees earn points or credits by engaging in activities such as walking a 5K, having a physical, or attending a lunch-n-learn. While education and fitness are important, the goals of a successful wellness program are to contain cost, drive awareness, educate employees, and support behaviour change to improve overall health. Nabholz has implemented an Outcome-Based wellness program targeting the five areas that drive health insurance (obesity, tobacco use, diabetes, cholesterol, and hypertension) and rewarding employees and spouses per category with a financial incentive. By complying with medically accepted standards, the risk is minimal.

One area that has garnered more attention in recent years is mental health and certainly proves important in the overall health of employees and spouses. Managers and superintendents should be trained to recognize high levels of stress and burnout in their employees and then have resources in place to address it. For companies with an EAP, leaders must ensure confidentiality and encourage employees to take advantage of the benefit. On the other hand, organizations with no EAP could identify available resources in their community and take the initiative to educate their employees about counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, or local support groups.

The organizational culture plays a crucial role in recognizing and determining the degree of employee stress and burnout. Often, managers or superintendents put pressure on the employees by asking them to work 50-60 hours in a week to meet a deadline. Unfortunately, when you work outside, the weather is always an unknown. This leads to potential financial stress since the employees’ paycheck may reflect working less than 40 hours one week and up to 60 another. This pressure not only disrupts the employees’ physical and mental health in the workplace but also makes their home life more challenging. Being a good leader or manager is knowing when to push one’s team and when to let off the gas.

Money becomes an enormous driver of stress for employees, especially for those who lack the skill to manage their budget and finances efficiently. When asked, The Nabholz Wellness team supports its employees by helping to formulate a budget to better manage their expenses. Our financial planning consultant also engages in an active dialogue with the employees/spouses to educate and facilitate smarter spending of their income and investments. In addition, we also grant employees/spouses free access to our website containing videos on budgeting and managing their money effectively.

"The key to a successful wellness program is a supportive leadership, a credentialed team, and a simple plan design"

At Nabholz, our wellness team works both on and off-site with employees and spouses. Our leadership’s philosophy is, “Take care of our people.”If needed, we accompany them to doctor visits and have been known to make home visits when necessary. Maybe the family has one vehicle and the husband is using it for work out of town. Maybe the spouse needs someone to go with her to the doctor because she’s scared and her husband is working. This helps build trust and relationships to ensure the complete physical and mental wellness of our employees.

Maximizing the Benefits of a Wellness Program

Organizations are looking for new and innovative ways such as investing in fitness wearables, devices, and portals to contain costs and ensure their employees’ wellness. Why not start by taking a hard look at your current product/program and work toward improving them.  Should they be scrapped altogether?  Are they helping the company contain costs?  Are they meeting the health needs of the employees/spouses?  Are they too complicated?  Too expensive? Low engagement? Tied to health insurance? Organizational leaders should continually analyze different vendors, insurance providers, pharmacy, EAP, and financial benefits and then decide the right vendor or partner to meet their needs. The key to a successful wellness program is a supportive leadership, a credentialed team, and a simple plan design. In the end, doing nothing can be more costly than trying and failing.

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