Wellness in the Workplace

Many companies are fighting the obesity epidemic by implementing creative tactics to keep people moving throughout the workday. Research from Harvard University has shown that workplace wellness programs can cut absenteeism, reduce medical costs, increase productivity and keep turnover rates low.

At American Traffic Solutions in Tempe, Arizona, employees created an “indoor track” – a hallway that winds around the office. The company painted arrows on the walls and hung posters, as well as measured the length of one lap. Employees make use of the track, walking laps on breaks to stay in shape. One employee has lost more than 20 pounds since he began using the track to take two-mile strolls on his lunch break.

ATS is just one of many companies taking creative initiatives to promote wellness and cut health care costs. Humana has installed several treadmill workstations – a desk and computer hooked to a treadmill. The treadmill does not exceed speeds of two miles per hour, but employees can check personal emails or run reports while moving their feet.

Adam Tuton, the ATS executive responsible for driving the implementation of a wellness program at his company, told The Wall Street Journal, “You have to make these opportunities very, very easy and accessible. Not everyone wants to take a boot-camp class.”

And he is correct. Most employees don’t have time in the middle of their workday to fit in an hour-long fitness routine, which must often be followed by a shower. Not to mention, lunch has to be scheduled in there somewhere. That is why many in-office gyms fail. According to WSJ, research shows that only about 25 percent of employees use the in-office gym. However, great success has been shown, when you offer employees the opportunity to work and move at the same time.

Other companies have taken a different approach, setting up a reward system for employees who participate in physical activity outside the office or scheduling group outings designed to promote fitness.

In San, Antonio, Texas, USAA, has designed the ultimate wellness program for their employees – of course that design comes a little easier when your facility is so large it has its own zip code. The company boasts softball and soccer fields, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts, recreation leagues, three onsite-fitness facilities, personal trainers, group fitness classes, long hallways with mile markers and innovative cafeterias – unhealthy foods, like candy bars and sugary sodas are kept on bottom shelves at inconvenient spots, while water and fruit take up spots that are easily within reach or tempt you as impulse buys at the cash register.  The employees not only get an hour lunch break, but one thirty-minute or two fifteen-minute wellness breaks are included with employment. Employees who participate in the program earn incentives for eating healthy at the on-site cafeteria or checking into the gym. The company is renowned for their wellness program and has some of the highest productivity and lowest turnover and absenteeism rates in the state.

If your company lacks a wellness program, be the voice that charters this worthy cause. It is an investment that benefits the employer as much as the employee and there are statistics to prove it. The U.S. Department of Labor in 2010 reported that employee absenteeism costs U.S. companies more than $100 billion annually and that number is rising. According to a 2008 report by U.S. Corporate Wellness, companies that implement programs that promote health see serious gains:

  • Reduction in health care costs by 20-55%
  • Decrease in short-term sick leave by as much as 32%
  • A savings of between $3 and $6 for every $1 invested in wellness
  • Drop in work comp and disability by as much as 30%
  • Enhanced recruitment and retention for all positions

If you are like most people in this country, you spend most of your time at the office – why not make those hours as productive and beneficial as they can be? Promote wellness where you work – it is a winning strategy for everyone.


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