How to develop a healthy workplace

LAS VEGAS—We’ve all heard—and can assume—that prevention is one of the best ways to cut down escalating health care costs. But employers haven’t really jumped on the wellness bandwagon. But they should, Sean Sullivan, president and CEO of The Institute for Health and Productivity Management, urged attendees at NAHU’s annual conference Monday.

“The hardest thing to change is behavior. You can’t just talk about it; you have to actually do it,” he said.

Here’s how:

Understand that improving employee health also improves business performance. “People sometimes value their health benefits more than they value their job,” Sullivan says. Health benefits, as well as prevention and wellness programs, are beneficial to both the employee and the employer. Health is human capital—just like knowledge and skills and motivation, he said. “Health needs to be valued by business—and it will when it’s recognized as a demonstrable business value.”

Work from the top down. Senior management must make employee health an integral part of corporate vision and values, he said. There are two simple tests for whether commitment to employee health has become part of the company vision and culture. One is if health management programs survived changes in leadership at the top, and two is if employee engagement in health programs remains high without the need for continuing financial incentives.

Share responsibility. Consider looking at wellness programs as a shared responsibility: The employee is responsible for personal behavior, the company is responsible for corporate policies, resources and tools, and the site is responsible for local culture and environment.

Be persistent. Think long-term, and make a long-term commitment. Make sure employees on all levels know what the health goals are.

Know your numbers. On a personal level, keep track of your weight, health numbers, health goals, etc. For employers, use corporate aggregate reports. “You’d be amazed to know that most large employers have no idea how many of their employees have diabetes,” Sullivan said. “How can they measure their company’s health without these numbers?”

Keep drilling information into employees. Keep giving your employees information—even when it’s the same thing over and over again. Sullivan also suggested using mobile messaging, which is quick and easier to access than email marketing.



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