Check practically any list of trends for this or next year in business and you will find that everyone is worrying over Obamacare’s impact on the workplace. The concerns are not unfounded. After all, healthcare costs in the U.S. are astronomical, with total spending expected to reach $4.8 trillion in 2021. To put that in perspective, it’s about a fifth of the U.S. economy.
What’s even more surprising is how little most organizations do to manage healthcare costs among their employees. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a HR professional or benefits specialist to have an impact in this regard. Kelly Walsh, owner of consulting firm 1 Smart Life and companion business 1 Smart Career (pictured above), offers individual managers these five wellness tips for encouraging their teams to feel better, reduce stress, bolster work/life integration, and increase productivity.
OUT with beer and free snacks, IN with healthy snacks and water
Saying that you are committed to wellness while plying employees with free chips, soda, and beer to get through the long hours is sending the wrong message. Let that apple a day keep your employees’ doctors away. Make items like fruit, yogurt, and protein bars readily available.
OUT with sedentary jobs, IN with reminders for those sitting to get up and stretch or walk for a few minutes
There will always be jobs that require sitting for long hours, but help your people get up from their desks as much as possible. There are apps that tell us to stretch and move (try Stretch Clock, a break reminder app), and what about handing out step counters? Pedometers can be had for $10 each and a friendly competition will have staff fighting for the farthest parking spot in the lot.
OUT with eating at your desk, IN with line dancing in the cafeteria
I nearly laughed when I heard this one, but apparently it’s actually working for one large pharmaceutical. The program started small with a few women and an iPod amp. Now it’s a large group of men and women doing an old school “Electric Slide” or a “Cupid Shuffle” and a “Wobble.” They are easy, fun and everyone goes back to their afternoon work with a smile.
OUT with being on your own, IN with education, coaching and support
Putting an emphasis on wellness where there wasn’t one before is very hard to do alone. Offering education, access to coaches, support networks and an environment that doesn’t sabotage is the key. You might offer access to onsite nutritionists, Weight Watchers programs, yoga classes, chair massages, and quiet meditation areas.
OUT with a mug or lunch bag as a reward, IN with meaningful incentives
Ask your people what they really want and need to incorporate wellness into their days. Maybe a $50 incentive to quit smoking isn’t going to move someone who is addicted to nicotine. To get true behavioral change, the incentives need to be personal and worthwhile. For instance, how about offering comp days for wellness activities such as running a marathon.
What about measurement?
In an ideal world, your wellness initiatives will do more than just feel good (physically and emotionally). You actually want them to reduce your company’s healthcare costs and improve productivity.
According to Walsh, it can take a few years to determine the actual ROI of a wellness program, but it’s definitely possible. Healthcare costs that can be reviewed over time via a baseline from your insurance provider, and it’s easy to record employee absentee rates before and after you initiate your programs.
Program participation can be measured formally via surveys and event sign-ups, but it’s also a smart move to take it a step further. Ask your employees if they have changed any of their daily behaviors because of the wellness culture at work, and ask both employees and their managers if productivity is higher after people return from a wellness activity like line dancing or a chair massage. If there are gaps or areas where initiatives aren’t making a discernible impact, you will be able to tweak your programs to address them.