Promoting workplace wellness makes sense ... and cents

April 29, 2014 | by Hiu Chung So

Although workplace wellness programs — an employer-endorsed set of activities or policies promoting healthy behaviors — have numerous benefits for employees, the idea of creating, implementing and maintaining them may seem daunting to many businesses and organizations. Further, employers may see these programs as an unnecessary expense with no tangible, positive results.

Workplace wellness programs have numerous benefits for employees and employers, and they don't have to be costly in money or time. Workplace wellness programs have numerous benefits for employees and employers; also, they don't have to be costly in money or time.

To help dispel that notion and to encourage Antelope Valley employers to build a culture of wellness, City of Hope — in conjunction with Antelope Valley Board of Trade and the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce — will hold a panel discussion, "Community Dialogue: Wellness and the Workplace," on workplace wellness programs, their benefits and how they can be adapted to fit an organization's needs and available resources.

The workplace wellness event will take place at City of Hope | Antelope Valley on Friday, May 2, from 8:30 to 11 a.m.

"Our hope is that attendees will be excited and inspired to change their lives — and the organizations they lead — based on what they hear that day," said Stephanie Neuvirth, City of Hope's chief human resources and diversity officer. "Wellness does not have to be a dramatic shift in strategy and mission, it is about making adjustments to create healthy living environments and habits for employees in and out of their workplaces."

Neuvirth, who will be part of the panel discussion, noted that the average full-time employee spends more waking time at his or her workplace than at home most days of the week, so employers have a great influence over their staff's well-being. And enhancing that well-being can, in turn, bolster employee satisfaction and engagement.

"Employees with higher well-being are more productive, take less sick days, have fewer accidents and are more likely to stay with their employers," Neuvirth said.

These observations are supported by a recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report to Congress. In the report, 80 percent of employers said that implementing a workplace wellness program increased productivity and lowered absenteeism, and 60 percent said these programs helped reduce health care spending. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted that these programs can help lower disability and insurance costs, elevate corporate image and improve employee recruitment/retention efforts.

Wellness programs do not have to be expensive or time-consuming, Neuvirth said. Simple, economical policies and activities can include enacting a no-smoking rule on workplace premises, organizing a walking club before/after work hours or sharing healthy living tips on the bulletin board or in the employee newsletter. Local health, government and community organizations can also offer additional no- or low-cost wellness activities and resources, such as nutrition counseling, health screenings and vaccinations.

Lastly, Neuvirth encourages employers to be creative and listen to employee feedback when building and implementing their programs.

"Wellness means something different to each person, so it is about creating different options so that everyone can participate," she said.

Learn more about or R.S.V.P. for "A Community Dialogue: Wellness and the Workplace," taking place at City of Hope | Antelope Valley on May 2, 8:30 to 11 a.m.

Find out more about City of Hope's Wellness Program.



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