Workplace wellness is any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behaviour in the workplace and to improve health outcomes. It often comprises activities such as health education, medical screenings, weight management programs, on-site fitness programs or facilities. The five recommended elements of a good programme are work-life balance, health and safety, employee growth and development, employee recognition and employee Involvement. Workplace wellness programmes can be categorized as primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention efforts, or an employer can implement programs that have elements of multiple types of prevention.
Primary prevention programmes usually target a fairly healthy employee population, and encourage them to more frequently engage in health behaviours that will encourage ongoing good health. An example of primary prevention programmes include stress management, and exercise and healthy eating promotion.
Secondary prevention programs are targeted at reducing behaviour that is considered a risk factor for poor health. Examples of such programs include smoking cessation programs and screenings for high blood pressure or other cardiovascular disease related risk factors.
Tertiary health programs address existing health problems, and aim to help control or reduce symptoms, or to help slow the progression of a disease or condition. Such programs might encourage employees to better adhere to specific medication or self-managed care guidelines.
The lifestyles of people in the workforce are important both for the sake of their own health and for the sake of their employer’s productivity. Companies often subsidize these programs in the hope that they will save companies money in the long run by improving health, morale and productivity, although there is some controversy about evidence for the levels of return on investment. Companies must ensure that their health promotion efforts do not place employee health at risk to reach targets nor abuse medical privacy.
Non-controversial examples of workplace wellness organizational policies include allowing flex-time for exercise, providing on-site kitchen and eating areas, offering healthy food options in vending machines, holding “walk and talk” meetings, and offering financial and other incentives for participation. In recent years, workplace wellness has been expanded from single health promotion interventions to create a more overall healthy environment including, for example standards of building and interior design to promote physical activity. This expansion is largely been in part to creating greater access and leadership support from leaders in the participating companies.
In South Africa, medical aid providers are at the forefront of wellness activities for their members, and so is the national government which has adopted the ‘Primary Health Care Approach’; this approach views health promotion as a significant function that reduces the burden of disease to the public health system. In simple, the more people exercise and maintain healthy lifestyles equals the less people requiring medical support from public hospitals, and that informs the drive to install public gym facilities in communities.
Many corporate workplaces offer medical aid contributions which subsidize the cost of health coverage at private facilities to their employees, which forms part of their wellness contributions, however this alone is not enough to ensure employees maintain good health. Companies lose productivity hours if their employees are off sick because they have the flu or back pain, morale is low or poor because employees are frustrated and stressed out at work – which may be because of workplace stress or personal matters – and for this it is imperative that companies ensure that they make good efforts to support their employees mental and physical health.
People who work at places they enjoy being in and experience reduced levels of stress and frustration tend to stay longer at those companies and perform better, which has benefits for the company. It is a great idea that growing companies develop innovative and exciting wellness programmes that make their workers enjoy a more quality life.
** Portions of this post were cited from Wikipedia.