Workplace Wellness: A Business Strategy for Economic Growth

We are all aware that there are indicators of an economic crisis. The looming fiscal cliff, uncertainties of healthcare reform, high unemployment, global competition & devaluation of the dollar are news topics that have become commonplace.

On the bright side, times of crisis can also create opportunities for positive change. We must think outside of the box & create new conversations around pervasive challenges IF we choose to exceed the status quo, on a personal, organizational, community, state & national level.

The survival of American businesses in the global marketplace & the health of individuals depends on taking a proactive stance toward promoting a culture of wellness at our workplaces & at home. The U.S. economy cannot sustain ever-increasing healthcare costs & lower productivity. The U.S. spends more of its GDP on health care than any other country – yet our people are less healthy.

The medical community has created an economic model that creates a profit when people get sick, instead of focusing on prevention & promoting wellness. Unfortunately, for our national economy as well as businesses, communities & families – the cost of waiting for people to get sick far exceeds the cost of helping people stay healthy.

The World Health Organization noted that the workplace is one of the priority settings for health promotion in the 21st century. For proactive businesses, implementing health & wellness initiatives can provide a major competitive edge. An organization who invests in wellness programs will reduce healthcare costs, absenteeism & presenteeism, while increasing productivity & profits, which allows for more job creating & greater tax revenue for local, state & national governments. Quite simply, investing in wellness pays dividends on all levels!

“The health of our workforce is inextricably linked to the productivity of our nation’s workforce, and therefore to the health of our national economy. It’s that central to our nation’s viability. We need to address the health crisis in the country, which will then simultaneously address the cost crisis. What can happen is that we can establish a culture of health in which wellness really becomes just a part of doing everyday business for an employer, an entire community, an entire state, an entire nation.”  Dr. Ron Loeppke

Our current system of healthcare waits for people to move toward high-risk health status, then spends a lot of financial resources trying to move them back down again. For businesses, as well as governments at a local & national level, waiting for people to get sick is not a sustainable model for economic growth. Doing nothing is more expensive than investing in proactive solutions. Many factors drive healthcare costs beginning with high risk people who develop diseases that are expensive to manage which drive further economic outcomes including:

  • Medical & hospital expenses
  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Absence, disability, workman’s compensation
  • Reduction in job performance
  • Negative effects on recruitment, retention & morale

This continuum of high risk to devastating economic outcomes is the root cause of increasing health care costs & reduced productivity for American businesses. I have been involved in the fitness & wellness industry for over 25 years. A great deal of that time was spent working with individuals as a Personal Trainer, nutritional counselor & wellness coach. An organization is simply a group of individuals. One of the keys to my success in working with organizations is getting to know the individuals – their personal goals, concerns for their family, their health history, hopes for their future – in essence, the “Heart of their WHY”.

In order to help people succeed at getting well, they must embrace the value of health & connect it to their personal values. The key to implementing a successful wellness program is engaging as many people as possible to participate. In order for people to participate, they need to know what’s in it for them. We must walk along side people with resources & encouragement to help them feel like winners & develop a sense of self-leadership. Self-leaders will eventually become role models who recruit other self-leaders.

But, we must begin with baby steps – small, achievable goals that help people feel like they can accomplish what they set out to do (self-efficacy). The first steps for an organization or individual may be to not get worse. It is much easier to begin with – just maintain your weight & do not gain, than setting weight-loss goals that are too lofty. Walking 500-1000 steps per day is much easier to accomplish than the current recommendations of 10,000 steps per day. Also, know your numbers. Just knowing cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, hormone & thyroid numbers, creates awareness so an individual can seek guidance on how to improve their health status. When it comes to health, ignorance is not bliss!

Source: Zero Trends by Dr. Dee Eddington