In the United States, the average employed adult spends 8.7 hours at work or in work-related activities. This does not leave a lot of time free for home life, leisure activities, and taking care of one's health. The result has too often been high levels of absenteeism and lost productivity due to illness as well as growing healthcare costs.
In an attempt to change this dynamic, many companies have begun offering "wellness programs" to their employees to help them stay healthy. In a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management, an astounding 76% of companies offered some form of wellness program to their employees. And these wellness programs have been paying off. At Kaiser Permanente, for example, programs aimed at its 200,000 employees have achieved a documented 5% improvement in blood pressure levels, a 7% improvement in cholesterol levels, and a 12% decrease in smoking. They also achieved a stable body mass index among employees during a period when most of America was getting fatter.
What’s in a workplace wellness program?
Although wellness programs vary from company to company, the majority of them focus on providing the following services to employees:
- Weight loss programs. Being overweight or obese has been linked to an increased risk of many serious diseases, so smart companies are providing incentives to help employees keep their weight under control. Onsite gyms and exercise or yoga classes, sponsored walking or running groups that meet during lunch hours, and similar programs help employees to get more exercise. Company cafeterias are providing healthier foods to help employees stick to diets.
- Lifestyle management counseling. Companies are helping their employees to better manage their at-work and off-work schedules to promote health. This may involve counseling in stress and sleep management and how to keep their lives in balance. Classes in "mental fitness" have been instituted to help employees deal with stresses both on the job and off.
- Smoking cessation. Quitting smoking can cut your risk of heart disease and other serious diseases in half within a few months. Therefore, many companies are sponsoring stop-smoking programs among their employees, creating smoke-free campuses (outside as well as inside buildings), and providing classes and support groups to help employees quit.
- Workplace and work habits redesign. Reacting to statistics showing how bad sitting all day can be for employee health, employers have begun instituting mandatory "get up and stretch breaks" for employees, or offering them the choice of standing desks.
If you’re an employee, check with your manager or HR department to see if programs such as these are already available at your company. If you’re a manager, it may make sense to investigate the broader workplace wellness trends in your industry and consider introducing programs of your own.
Many chiropractic physicians specialize in treating musculoskeletal conditions and injuries related to the workplace. In many cases, they can also work with manager and employees to develop occupational health and wellness programs aimed at preventing these problems in the first place. If you’d like to learn more, please call or visit our office.