• Health and Wellness - No more excuses!

  • Newspapers and magazines are now full of articles that relate to wellness and healthy living. It seems that we all have a huge “appetite” for tips and top ten lists telling us how to eat, exercise, sleep, and manage a good work-life balance. Society is becoming addicted to the education of healthy living and once they get a taste they want more!

    Organizations of all sizes are now discovering why wellness and health promotion can be a powerful tool for the success of their relationships with employees. If we spend almost half of our waking hours at work then it makes sense that employers focus some resources towards prevention, health and wellness. The studies have all shown that comprehensive wellness programs deliver at least a 3 to 1 return on investment (American Journal of Health Promotion, 2001). There is a direct savings to drug cost, disability, and casual absence. Even better, organizations love the improvements in productivity, morale, employee engagement, and corporate reputation. Once organizations experience all these benefits they realize that wellness needs to be a permanent program.

    A comprehensive wellness program should also include a focus on mental health since stress-related issues have now become the number one reason for absenteeism in Canada. Employers struggle with how to handle the ever growing issues related to employee stress, anxiety, and depression. Programs that can integrate training and education related to “resilience” and psychological strength will see that employees bounce back quicker from adversity, making them less susceptible to the physical harm caused by stress. Psychological strength also empowers people to make the necessary health changes required for optimal living.

    Up until now there have been a lot of excuses on why not to start a wellness program. Time, money, and ownership buy in have been the big ones. For those human resources departments that are tasked to start a wellness program on their own, it can be a real challenge knowing where to begin, what to implement, and how to maintain it. Given how busy they can get, wellness can often be the program that falls off the rails.

    With some guidance and help, starting a wellness program does not have to be that complicated. We’re at a point where it’s time to stop making excuses and get started. If your organization is now saying “enough is enough” and wants to integrate some kind of wellness solution – you can consider starting at a basic level and build from there. You will quickly discover for yourself what options are out there and the price that comes along with those options. Many wellness solutions will not get past the finance department because the initial ticket price is just too hard to justify – especially where a budget for wellness never existed before. However, there are affordable options that will work well as a base to build upon and in many cases the money to pay for it can be moved or re-invested from other parts of the budget.

    There seems to be a misunderstanding that Employee Assistance Plans (EAP) can suffice as a wellness plan. They are perhaps a key component, but any program where the education is reactive or voluntary – meaning just there to be taken by those that already have a motivation to learn or get help on their own – is not a wellness plan. Wellness is the objective of building awareness, education, and sustained participation for all employees. Pointing employees to a website of information can actually back-fire as most people find this massive amount of information overwhelming.

    What we’re really talking about is a change in organizational culture and more importantly – a change in society. Watch an episode of Mad Men and you will understand how far we have come. Imagine today, getting up in the middle of a meeting to fix yourself a glass of straight scotch and lighting up a cigarette. The media is bombarding us with messages about healthy living since wellness has become a huge industry. For some, the messages are getting through and for others they are not. It’s important to teach people how to separate the “industry” messages (often biased) from real facts and proven research. So, along with good information we need some support and motivation to change our behaviors.

    None of us would argue that we should be eating better and getting more exercise, but we are challenged on our beliefs that we can do it or that we will really see the results that are promised to us. We keep going along with the same habits and behaviors until we discover that “motivation to change”. Instead of waiting for motivation after experiencing a so called “health scare” we need to be getting it from good role models and proactive support.

    If you look at wellness from purely a financial position there is no question you will see a great ROI. For organizations that have now shifted their culture to support health and wellness as a part of doing good business, they are seeing so many more positive reasons to keep it going than just the financial ones.

    Good luck in your research to find a health and wellness solution that works for you and your organization.

    About the Author

    Roger Thorpe is President of Thorpe Benefits. As a specialized employee benefits consulting firm, they have redefined the “role of the broker” by including significant value add services. With a goal to “pay less and get more” many unique tools are offered including the recent launch of Thorpe Benefits – Health & Wellness. Check out the video segments on their website to learn more. www.thorpebenefits.com

    Financial Tip … from James Phillipson

    Almost all companies that have implemented wellness programs have found that the significant benefits, both tangible and intangible, are well worth the relatively small costs and that there is an excellent ROI. Much as a group insurance program is now standard fare, due to the benefits to the business (as well as the employees), wellness is becoming recognized as a good strategic business decision, not merely an enlightened program for the benefit to the staff. The next time that you review your group insurance program consider adding an element of health “promotion” and start by investigating a comprehensive wellness program.

    About the Author: James Phillipson, Principal, Mastermind Solutions Inc.

    James Phillipson is a Chartered Accountant who provides strategic financial management skills to small and medium sized businesses (SMEs). For the last twenty-five years he has helped companies use financial systems and processes to grow their business. Often that includes coaching the Accounting department staff and providing financial advice to owners and executive management.