How to Change Your Organization's Wellness Culture to Impact Your Bottom Line
BY CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor
It's hard enough to change the behavior of workers, especially if you're talking about workers who've lived on mediocre diets or indulged in bad habits like smoking.
Take Tim Russert, for example. The former moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" died of a heart attack last June at the age of 58, after a grueling travel and work schedule started to take a toll on his body. The newsman suffered a ruptured artery caused by a buildup of cholesterol plaque.
We'll never know if changes in his regimen would have extended the life of the widely admired anchor of the popular Sunday news program. But his death gave thousands of Americans pause.
"That affected a lot of people," said Joanne L. Sargent, president of Sargent and Associates, a wellness consultancy. "People started saying 'I'm going to get a stress test,' and start living a healthier life."
But are they? And will they if they don't have an incentive to do so at work, where most people spend much of their day. With the recession talking a toll on companies and families alike, implementing wellness programs isn't top of mind in the C-suite.
Nor are workers fond of their employer telling them how to behave. "One woman said to me, 'I don't want my employer telling me how to eat right,' " said Sargent.
Despite a decades-long effort by the government to warn smokers of the dangers of tobacco, 25 percent of the workforce still smokes, added Sargent, who spoke Nov. 21, at the 17th annual National Workers' Comp and Disability Conference & Expo.
But as health are costs keep climbing--the country will spend more than $2 trillion on health care costs in 2017, according to Sargent--companies need to do all they can to keep workers out of the hospital.
Fortunately there are cheap and easy ways to get started on a wellness program, according to Sargent, based in Chelm, Mass., even if companies aren't in much of a spending mood.
She advises companies to begin with a health risk assessment of employees to identify risk factors facing them.
Right away, an assessment will reveal how many workers are at risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes, whether workers suffer from obesity, if they suffer from high cholesterol or high blood pressure, who has poor sleeping habits, and who refuses to wear seat belts when traveling on business.
Knowing these facts will help wellness managers make their case for a budget from the C-suite, and allocate the available dollars more carefully.
So, whether you're a wellness manager looking to implement a program, or an employee looking to follow the same, Sargent says it's time to pick up the pace.
"If we are inactive, we're going to have more absenteesim, increased costs and lower morale." And that's just going to end up costing employers and employees even more.
November 24, 2008
Copyright 2008© LRP Publications