Workplace Wellness Programs Target Employee Health

Work is a top cause of stress, and when that stress seeps into a company’s culture, it often results in unhappy, unproductive employees who may suffer from health concerns like chronic back pain. These effects have real consequences for companies that are trying to stay competitive. In one study, 42% of workers cited job stress as the reason they quit, according to Greatist.

Fortunately, more companies are implementing workplace wellness programs in an effort to help employees become happier and healthier. These programs are in the companies’ best interest—they’ve been found to reduce turnover and absenteeism, heighten productivity, and cut health care costs.

A utility company in the Midwest analyzed its workplace wellness program and found it saved them $4.8 million over nine years, according to Pain Doctor.

Health programs in the workplace that target weight loss or stress reduction could also help employees find relief from conditions like chronic back pain. Many people want to live healthier lifestyles, but long hours spent at their desk jobs get in the way of eating healthy and exercising. Companies that implement workplace wellness programs help employees take charge of their health and reap the benefits that come with having healthier, happier staff members.

How do workplace wellness programs influence health?

Without workplace wellness programs, many employees sit at their desks all day, sometimes even eating lunch there. The traditional corporate culture that emphasizes long hours while sacrificing health and happiness is on its way out in many sectors.

Taking frequent breaks, or even leaving for an hour to exercise at an on-site fitness facility, helps employees to maintain a healthy body weight. Exercise and maintaining a trim waistline reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions, including back pain.

While employers may first worry that workers who reduce the number of hours spent sitting at their desks will complete less work, research shows that getting up and moving around can actually increase productivity. Including periods of movement and exercise during the day helps increase energy and improves performance, reports Forbes.

Another important element to workplace wellness programs is making sure managers at all levels support the initiatives. For example, what good is having an on-site gym if employees feel guilty for getting away for an hour and using it? Managers should also display healthy habits like maintaining reasonable work hours and leaving the office for lunch, recommends Nevada Pain.

For workers with back pain that may be aggravated or caused by long hours spent sitting at desks, fitness classes, including yoga, or guided meditations could help reduce that back pain. Targeted fitness programs that build muscle strength and contribute to better posture also help to reduce back pain. Meanwhile, meditation reduces stress, increases focus, and has also been shown to help people better cope with pain.

What do workplace wellness programs consist of?

Every workplace wellness program approaches health in a slightly different way. Some may organize teams to run local charity races. Other companies may hire fitness instructors to teach classes during lunch or after work. From Ping-Pong tournaments to mental health counseling, businesses all over the country are redefining what it means to be healthy at work.

Many companies also offer health screenings or incentives for adopting healthy behaviors, like losing weight or quitting smoking, since those behaviors help to reduce health care costs.

At California-based healthcare company Kaiser Permanente, for instance, it’s easy to eat healthy with nutritiously stocked vending machines and strategically planned cafeteria options. The company’s campus has multiple gyms on-site, and its culture promotes ten-minute breaks for physical fitness, reports Greatist.

Microsoft, headquartered in Washington, offers flexible hours and gym memberships, but then goes further outside-the-box with its on-site dry cleaning and oil change facilities as well as an organic spa.

Google is well-known for its progressive technology culture, but the tech giant also values employee health with free meals, four on-site gyms, and free services ranging from dry cleaning to haircuts and massages. Google has placed thousands of bicycles around its campus so employees can bike across the sprawling site and has planted a community garden.

At General Mills, the cereal and food manufacturer, employees have access to meditation rooms. On Fitness Fridays, employees let off steam with games like dodgeball. Staff also has the ability to switch between desks, a system designed to foster creativity and reduce stress. Want to escape from an annoying coworker? Just move!

Smaller companies are joining the mix, too. South San Francisco-based Genentech hosts farmers markets to encourage local, healthy eating. Other perks include guided meditation and on-site fitness centers. Genentech also rewards longevity—after six years, employees can take paid, six-week sabbaticals.

At the e-commerce site Zappos, management believes happy and healthy employees are critical to the company’s success. Innovative benefits range from nap rooms to half days on Fridays.

Pain Doctor also believes in walking the walk. The workplace wellness program, Rock the Fit, helps employees stay healthy while reducing stress and the risk of chronic health conditions, including pain. Special events and group classes bring employees and their families together to have fun while exercising and reducing stress.

“Pain Doctor’s success hinges upon the health and happiness of its employees. We value employee health as much as we value our patients’ health. Programs like Rock the Fit are important for helping employees live the Pain Doctor mission, which is helping people everywhere live their fullest, happiest life,” says Josh Filiani, Pain Doctor’s director of sales and marketing.

Meanwhile, in bustling New York City, the ZocDoc office provides employees with a calm and happy oasis. A Fun Room has a guitar for workers to unleash their inner rock star. The room is also equipped with arcade games, a hammock, and beanbags. Then there are Ping-Pong tables and basketball hoops that encourage both fitness and camaraderie. Making employees feel like family is important at the company—everyone eats lunch together at noon every day.

Chicago-based Centro, a digital advertising company, took a page from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which takes place in the city. Centro gives its employees ten Ferris Bueller days in addition to vacation time that employees can use for their own mental health breaks spent lounging in bed, visiting art museums, taking in a ball game, or engaging in their own version of Ferris’ misadventures.

Does your company have a workplace wellness program?

Image by MilitaryHealth via Flickr