ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Wellness In The Workplace

04.30.13 by Tom Hendrick
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Wellness.  We have all heard the term.  But do we really know what it means?  Why we should be interested in it? And how you get started?

My handy computer dictionary tells me “wellness is the state or condition of being in good physical and mental health”.  But a definition I like better comes from my good friend, Eric Moon, known locally as “The Wellness Dude”.  Eric is a health and wellness coach for a local insurance organization and the most passionate person I have ever met about wellness.  To quote and paraphrase Eric, “ wellness is simply the opposite of sickness.  Health care is all about treating illness, disease, or injury after one becomes afflicted.  On the contrary, wellness is about preventing it from happening in the first place.  Wellness represents a shift toward encouraging preventive medicine, health risk reduction and positive behaviors”.

The first question you might be asking yourself is why we need to be concerned about wellness in the workplace.  Isn’t it the responsibility of the individual to decide to what degree they want or don’t want to take care of themselves?  Certainly an individual needs to decide what they are willing to do with regard to wellness and when they are willing to do it.  I believe most people have good intentions and most aim or plan to take decent care of them selves.  But the truth is most people are not meeting their intentions. Statistics show that almost two-thirds of Americans are overweight and nearly a third are obese (more than 30 pounds over weight). Most people need help.  They mean well, but can’t seem to find the time.  Since most Americans typically spend more than a third of their day at the work place, any wellness activities that you could provide would be very beneficial to the employee.  But again you might ask, why would I want to do that?  Here are a few reasons why you might want to consider doing it.  Studies published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) indicate investing in wellness can cut healthcare costs by having fewer claims.  It can also decrease absenteeism and boost employee productivity.  Other studies show that employees are more likely to be on the job and performing well when they are in optimal physical and psychological health.  An unexpected benefit we have seen in our office is improved camaraderie between employees during exercise classes. Improved camaraderie can lead to higher morale, which reduces turnover.  We have also seen that it helps in recruiting talented workers, particularly those in the younger generations, who will view you as the employer of choice.

At Wallace Engineering, we began by simply paying money to employees who quit smoking.  We offered flu vaccine shots to employees and employee family members.  When we moved into our new office space six years ago, we placed a bike rack in the first floor foyer to encourage employees to bike to work.  We started a wellness folder on our intranet where employees could post wellness information of all types. We brought in a local fitness instructor to lead on-site classes so that employees could workout on-site and save time. We have offered lunchtime seminars on subjects ranging from Stress Management to Long Term Care Protection to Healthy Eating. Other items we have done include providing nutritional information on fast food restaurant items, holding a Biggest Loser’s Contest, sponsoring employees participation on a company softball team, and sponsoring and providing both volunteers and participants in national bicycle races held in Tulsa.  Most recently, a nutritionist has been working with interested employees on cooking and eating the right foods.

So, if you don’t have a wellness program in place at your firm, talk with the right folks about starting one.  If you do have one, make sure you participate and encourage others to do so as well.  It just might be the most cost effective manner in which to address health care concerns.  To quote The Wellness Dude again, “Make time for wellness now, or make time for sickness later”.

Note:  The information above is intended for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  One should consult their doctor before making any changes to diet or exercise.

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Tom Hendrick, PE

Principal

Tom received his Bachelor and Master of Science in Civil Engineering degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is a licensed professional engineer in eleven…

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