New Year’s Day is in 28 days. On that day, many of us will resolve to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, this will probably not be the first time we have made that resolution – or the last!
Life is full of choices! Why does it seem so hard to make those right choices which are conducive to better health? If people need to be gently nudged into making better choices, what role should the workplace – where they spend a major portion of their waking hours – play in encouraging those choices? Companies should be motivated to join in this effort. Among other things, employers would benefit from reduced absenteeism and greater operational efficiencies as the overall health of employees improves.
Blueprint for the Program:
Research into wellness programs by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that a majority of employers now offer some sort of wellness program — 94 percent of employers with over 200 workers, and 63 percent of smaller companies.
Wellness programs at work vary. For example, employers may provide a fully equipped gym, a pool, or other work-out facilities. The company may engage a yoga/tai chi instructor, general physician or wellness counselor to visit at fixed intervals to train and/or provide consultation to the employees. The company may offer free onsite flu vaccinations or other onsite services. To achieve optimum results out of such a program, employers need to carefully consider each program element:
Typical Benefits of Wellness Programs
Wellness programs at the workplace have many benefits, which include reduced absenteeism, lowered healthcare costs and better employer brand image. In addition to these expected benefits, research indicates that the concern shown by the employer for the employees’ well-being is repaid by loyalty. Employers experienced a reduction in the frequency of unscheduled leaves whose justifications were subject to question. Employees also reported increased energy levels and greater enthusiasm for their work.
Teamwork and motivation also increased in companies where healthy group activities (after work sports teams, weekend ski trips, and other outdoor activities) were sponsored.
Workers cited a higher success rate when embarking upon a regular exercise program or modifying habits like smoking, eating and drinking. Undertaking such activities while at work makes dropping out difficult due to peer support and ultimately results in safeguarding the employee’s health and welfare.
Avoid the EEOC’s Ire:
So, it is a win-win for everyone? Not so fast!
Make sure that the wellness program offered by your company does not fall foul of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) standards. Going by the lawsuits filed by the EEOC against employers, we have compiled a list of actions which fail to pass muster with the Commission:
The EEOC contends that such forced screening would not be justified by business necessity. They would violate the employee’s rights to privacy under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA).
Wellness programs should be regularly reviewed to determine their effectiveness. Fine-tuning will result in continuous benefits to companies and employees. Implementation of a wellness program would be a great resolution for your company in 2015.
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