Workplace wellness programs have multiple benefits for employee, employer

Workplace wellness programs have multiple benefits for employee, employer

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - So many of us have jobs, and between the long hours and difficult work, staying healthy can become a full-time job of its own.

But as it turns out, employers all over the country are taking their own steps to improve their employees health -- and they're finding out it's working.

Findings from more than 50 studies published in the American Journal of Health Promotion have shown that workplace wellness programs show a significant decrease in worker absenteeism and health care costs.

But workplace wellness programs aren't just beneficial to an employee's health -- it turns out, there are also great cost benefits to the employer for implementing those programs.

"What the research has found is that healthy employees are more productive," said Dr. DawnElla M. Rust, Health Science Professor at Stephen F. Austin State University. "For every dollar spent on a worksite wellness program, a business can expect to save anywhere from $5 to $6."

Rust's research has shown that a workplace wellness program can tackle an employee's health in many ways, like the Work Well Program Kinnie Douglas runs at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital.

"Some of them have smoke-free campuses, they have tobacco cessation, they have facilities on site where their employees can do their physical activity," said Douglas. "They'll have coaches on site. Some of them even allow employees time during their work time to do some physical activity."

Rust said your workplace wellness plan doesn't have to be large or overwhelming.

"I think the best thing to do is to start off simple," she said. "Maybe it's a yoga class in that empty storeroom or something like that and get a culture going. And what we'd really like to see is a culture of healthy where healthy is the easy choice."

It's a culture Lance Beus is promoting through an employee's gym at the Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin.

"The goal is really to make our employees healthy and then provide them a facility to do so," Beus said. "Oftentimes, these caregivers focus on other people rather than themselves, and so we like to remind them that we care about them, and we will try to make it convenient for them."

Cardiac nurse Mirva Jacildo said she has started working out every day because she's seen the benefit of exercise first-hand in her patients.

"For my own health, it benefited me most personally. And plus, it's easy access. Before I go home, I exercise first," she said.

Implementing a workplace wellness program won't change your job site overnight, Rust warned, but she urges employers to give it a try.

"A person doesn't get overweight overnight, so the same thing's going to occur. Implement the program today, it's going to be one to two years before you get the $5 to $6 in cost savings," Rust said.

It's money Beus said has been well-spent.

"Of course there's some capital that needs to be spent here to get this facility going. Obviously this equipment's fairly expensive," he said. "But it's well worth it to have healthy employees. It cuts down on absenteeism, it gets people healthier, healthier people are happier, and happier people are more productive."

The partnership for prevention has identified three proven promotion practices for better health -- they include tobacco cessation programs, cancer screenings, and fitness and nutrition practices.

And there are a variety of ways to promote that wellness, from placing fruit and water in the breakroom instead of candy and soda, to providing bonuses for employees that quit smoking.

They're all ideas employers are trying, and are finding work, for a better work environment.

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