As the healthcare environment changes, employers that take steps to prevent serious health problems before they ever occur will save money in the long run by creating a preventative healthcare environment in which well-being comes first. What’s more, doing so will keep you in line with changing regulations, helping you to avoid penalties and fees come tax time. From your workforce to your bottom line, a preventative mentality towards health and wellness is an excellent way to avoid and mitigate risk.
Here are a few easy first steps for getting your preventative programs going.
1. Encourage Screenings and Wellness Visits
Early detection and treatment of diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes (all common in American workplaces) is key to preventing serious complications down the line. It reduces costs in the long run by nipping small problems in the bud before they become big and costly. And of course, employees that feel well and aren’t battling major diseases have much more energy and brainpower to devote to the job.
Yearly wellness visits are crucial for early detection, and must be covered under any employee health plans. Regular screening for major diseases during wellness visits is also encouraged, especially for at-risk populations. While deciding to screen is ultimately up to the healthcare provider and the patient, as an employer you can promote screenings by providing regular reminders. You can also promote rewards or activities to encourage prevention, such as team participation in a charity cancer or heart disease walk.
2. Provide Gym Memberships and Nutritional Coaching
According to recent studies, up to 87.5% of healthcare claims can be traced back to poor lifestyle choices. Average yearly claims can be as much as $10,000 per employee. That’s a lot of money lost that doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, many wellness programs put in place to address this issue feel invasive to employees, especially if they feel their personal choice has been overridden and their privacy invaded when they must provide regular updates on their weight loss or food habits.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, simply offering gym memberships and training, providing a gym in-house and organizing workout support groups can create an encouraging environment, rather than a punishing one. Offering nutritional coaching and stocking the break room with healthy snacks are also great options, as is providing regular seminars on healthy habits. The key here is a switch from policies that feel mandatory to those that make employees feel like you are simply supporting their own goals.
Extra bonus: many aspects of a wellness program can be written off on your taxes, so be sure to ask your accountant or tax specialist what’s covered.
3. Craft an Ergonomics Program
When it comes both to prevention and to avoiding and mitigating risk, few approaches are quite as effective as a comprehensive ergonomics program. It’s no wonder, as ergonomics by definition is meant to maximize human performance by considering all of the many factors that contribute to an employee’s cognitive and physical productivity and health. Crafting an ergonomics program will tell employees that you’re serious about creating an environment that empowers employees in every way possible.
How to get started? Begin by taking a measured look at the RSI-related injuries your employees currently have, and doing an ergonomic inventory of your current office equipment. For this it makes sense to bring in an ergonomist, who can suggest solutions like buying new ergonomic keyboards, ergonomic mice, and adjustable desks. The ergonomist will then help employees set up their new spaces by observing carefully how they navigate around their spaces and taking precise measurements. From there, regular trainings on new equipment and approaches are crucial. And of course, employee input throughout the process will go a long way towards increasing engagement.
4. Discourage Presenteeism
Last but not least, creating a culture of prevention means encouraging a nurturing dynamic at work that puts employees’ needs first. Too often, workplaces suffer from “presenteeism,” with ill or exhausted employees showing up for work because they feel they have to and not really getting much done. This is bad for morale, can spread disease, and is at its heart inefficient, as employees who return to work after a needed rest period will get their jobs done much more effectively.
The evidence is in: wellness programs work. In fact, the general attitude of prevention can go a long way towards avoiding and mitigating risk in both the short and long term. It can have radiating effects throughout the company. What small step can your company do to embrace an environment of wellness? Let us know in the blog comments.