Keeping healthy at work

This post is the first in a series on health at work.

Working adults spend more waking hours at their place of work than anywhere else. Not surprisingly, stress levels are on the rise. When people struggle to maintain a work-life balance, managers become concerned that their employees may be burning out. When work production suffers, managers offer wellness programs. These programs can transform people and help them cope and perform better at work.

We have known for decades that healthy habits, such as regular physical exercise, tobacco free environments, stress management, healthy nutrition and low alcohol intake reduce premature deaths and are the building blocks for healthy living. Wellness programs are based on healthy lifestyle factors to promote health and reduce disease.

Healthy workers are the driving force behind successful businesses and organizations. Employees with healthy lifestyles have less sick leave, fewer long-term disabilities, better work performance and decreased health insurance costs.

Despite the benefits to wellness programs, too many employers continue to report that the programs don’t work. The challenge with wellness programs is to change health behaviours without increasing costs. In a 2012 survey, only 52 percent of employers said that their wellness program was effective in reducing their company’s health care costs.

Reports show that wellness programs screen more frequently than the required public health guidelines; adding to the cost of unneeded care. In some workplaces, cholesterol levels in healthy adults are screened annually as opposed to every five years. In addition, employers don’t always evaluate the effectiveness of wellness programs but keep offering them because of uncontrolled healthcare costs, increasing stress levels at work and inadequate productivity.

Healthy people at work matters. Employers should encourage wellness practices at the workplace to minimize costs and improve employee morale. In my next post, I will look at ways to promote healthy behaviours at work. Meanwhile, if you have some ideas to share, please feel free to write them in the comment box below.

Photo courtesy of: Alan Cleaver
Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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