Personnel e.bulletin – December 2013

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Developing a Healthier Workplace
Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.

It’s holiday time. As you prepare for work sponsored holiday festivities and your employees make New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle, it may be time for a serious dialogue about how to promote health and wellness in your workplace.

A focus on workplace health and wellness is not just a nice thing to do for your people – it is good business.  Any improvement you can make will have a marked impact on your health care costs, productivity, and performance.

The Stats
According to the American Journal of Health Promotion’s recent in-depth analysis of over 50 published studies, employers with work site health promotion programs see on average:
– 27% reduction in sick leave absenteeism
– 26% reduction in health costs
– 32% decrease in workers’ compensation and disability claims

The most important finding has to do with all-around wellness ROI. For every dollar invested in wellness, employers saw an average savings of $5.81 due to improved employee health and reduced medical claims.

The 2012 Principal Financial “Well-Being Index: American Workers” revealed:
– 62% of workers believed workplace wellness activities were successful in improving health and reducing health risks (up from 55% in 2011).

– 51% of program participants felt wellness benefits encouraged them to work harder and perform better.

– 59% of program participants say they have more energy to be productive at work as a result of their participation in employer-sponsored wellness programs.

Knowing that the development of “people programs” is the right thing to do and having the time and resources to do it are two different things. But take this one seriously – wellness is one of those program areas that:
– A little bit can go a long way
– You can start small and grow gradually
– Is not technology dependent – Does not require deep expertise
– Your people will quickly rally around and want to play a part in the development

Getting Started
Knowing that wellness will be a topic of interest to your employees, begin by getting them involved from the inception:
– Get your employees to lead the charge – ask for volunteers to meet & share ideas; you are likely to get as many offers as you will need.

– Give the volunteers some idea of your parameters, including a budget – don’t be concerned if your resources are limited, there are plenty of things you can do at low cost.

– Allow them to work out the details on their own within those parameters – this is one of those program areas that you can nearly fully delegate.

While the universe of health and wellness in the workplace is expanding, there are some common and fresh practices that can serve as a low effort starting point for you.

Provide Employees with Healthy Food Options
Everyone knows when you’re hard at work it can be easy, or necessary, to quickly grab a bite from what’s at hand. Offer your employees healthy meal and snack options that help fuel their performance while also meeting their nutritional needs:
– Consider stocking service trucks with drinking water. The water will cost you much less than the lost productivity time of a “quick” soda stop at a convenience store each day.

– ID local restaurants with healthier menus and work out a discount for your employees who eat their lunch there. The offer of a complementary priority service agreement for the business might gain you a customer and a benefit for your employees.

– Don’t give out fast food gift cards as awards for employees.

– At the office, you can get fresh produce delivered each week from a local source. Many farmers are now providing delivery services to worksites – it’s a great alternative to the vending machine. If you make it easier to grab an apple for a snack at the office versus hitting a store for a candy bar, you can make a big impact over time.

Encourage Exercise
Wellness and exercise go hand and hand, so make your company culture promote active lifestyles:

– Work out an employee discount or pay for employees’ membership to a local gym.
– Use smartphone apps to track the number of steps taken by your employees, with a small monthly prize and bigger annual prize for the employee who walked the most miles.
– Encourage the entire office to use the stairs.
– Implement and promote a lunch hour walking club and offer incentives for employees who participate.

Make Preventive Care Easy
Encouraging, even funding vaccinations for employees has one of the best returns on investment. When your employees avoid the flu, they can avoid missing out on several days of work:
– Bring vaccination to the workplace for flu season – free or low-cost on-site flu shots.
– If your health care does not cover flu shots – reimburse employees for vaccination fees.
– Consider a smoking cessation program to help employees kick their habit.
– Encourage employees to make use of their vacation time – it reduces stress and a rested, relaxed brain helps with focus & creative problem solving.

Incent Smartly

Employee incentive programs offer rewards, financial or otherwise, for employees who engage in healthy behavior. We all know that people’s behaviors can be greatly influenced by incentives, but make sure to incent wisely:
– Use carrots, not sticks.
Some wellness programs are now making employees pay higher premiums if they do not meet wellness goals. But penalties only force short-term compliance, while inviting complaints and resentment. Think long-term and use positive incentives instead.

 – Along with positive incentives, use recognition. Incentives become more meaningful when there is positive feedback. Recognition also makes rewards public, which shows other employees that the program works, and that the health incentives themselves are attainable.

– Don’t use cash rewards as wellness incentives.
  Money gets put into a bank account or wallet, where it’s indistinguishable from any other income (and thus quickly forgotten). Think instead of something that stands out, something that is memorable. If you can, build an experience around the reward.

Start small with some proven common practices and developing an employee wellness program does not have to be overwhelming. A committed team dedicated to employee health and wellness is essential along with tangible ideas and realistic goals – any workplace can cut costs along with calories, and increase endorphins along with employee engagement. The benefits of creating a healthy workplace are well worth it!


This content was developed for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of December 2013. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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