Over a three-year period, the program saw major improvements in health indicators, especially among older employees and those with the highest baseline values, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Researchers say replication of the program in other small business settings could have a large impact on public health.
Lincoln Industries is a supplier of products requiring high performance metal finishing. According to its website, it began a corporate wellness program in 1990 to promote better physical fitness and diet to prevent employees from following the increasing national trends of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer as well as health care costs.
The company had previously reported:
- Workers' comp costs dropped from more than $500,000 in 2003 to less than $50,000 in 2006.
- Tobacco use decreased from 77 percent in 2000 to 23 percent in 2007.
- Health care costs among individual employees in 2005 averaged $3,500 compared to the industry average of $10,000.
The company also reports the program has resulted in lower turnover and lower rates of absenteeism over the years.
The researchers looked at workers employed from 2007 to 2009, which totaled 279 people. "Significant improvements in body fat, blood pressure, and flexibility were observed across time," the authors reported.
Every employee was allowed to participate in one of four levels: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum based on the following criteria:
- Tobacco use.
- Quarterly screening checks for blood pressure and flexibility.
- Participation in wellness events.
- Health information updates.
- Health risk appraisals.
- Blood profiles.
- Behavior-based safety participation.
- Work behavior.
Employees who reach platinum status are eligible for a company-paid trip to Colorado to climb a 14,000-foot mountain. There were 77 climbers in 2007.
All employees were required to participate in quarterly health screenings, however, there were no sanctions for not participating. The program includes several other primary wellness activities.
Additionally, the company offers free tobacco cessation programs for employees and members of their families during work hours; reimbursements for gym memberships, home exercise equipment, or other accepted wellness fitness activities; local race sponsorships; and healthy choices in vending machines.
A deep-seated culture of wellness, combined with various financial and other incentives are credited with the high level of participation.
"While the high participation rates may be partially the result of financial incentives, it is clear that strong leadership, cultural support, organizational integration and program outreach also contribute to these high rates of participation in all program components," according to the study. "Recent research found that best practice worksite wellness programs incorporate more cultural elements into their strategies and yield nearly 2.5 times as much reduction in employee health risks as standard practice programs with fewer cultural elements."
Wellness is one of the company's corporate belief statements, a significant component of leadership development, integrated into daily company operations, and is part of both supervisor and employee performance evaluation systems, the authors say.
Company leaders embrace the culture of wellness and include it as part of individual development plans as well as company celebrations. Each shift begins with a group stretch, and departments frequently challenge each other in various wellness events.
The company has dedicated personnel and resources to its initiative. For example, there is a director of wellness and life enhancement, a full-time wellness specialist, a full-time occupational health nurse, and a wellness intern as well as a wellness committee and wellness mentors. During an annual poker walk, employees try to get the best poker hand from cards they receive at different stops throughout a milelong walk.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 11, 2011
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