Do You Have an Employee Wellness Plan?

Originally posted May 19, 2014 by Bridget Miller on http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com.

Employee wellness plans have been gaining popularity in recent years, and with good reason: they can benefit both employees and employers. 
An employee wellness program is simply a program that intends to promote the health and well-being of employees. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the key is that the program has a goal of improving employee health.

The benefits for employees are fairly obvious:

  • The potential for improved health
  • Support in the form of encouragement, goals, or even team activities
  • A focus on healthier choices
  • Maybe a reduction in cost

But the benefits for employers are sometimes overlooked. This is unfortunate because employers actually stand to benefit a great deal as well. Here are just a few examples:

  • Improved employee health can mean fewer absences for illness and higher employee productivity levels.
  • Investing in employees can improve employee morale. Over time, this can even reduce turnover.
  • Healthier employees often cost less to insure over time.

These benefits are there regardless of company size or industry. Every organization can benefit.

Starting an Employee Wellness Program

Starting an employee wellness program can be quite simple. (Of course, it can be quite involved too, depending on how far the employer wants to go with the program.) Here are some examples of easy ways to get started focusing on employee health:

  • Provide health screenings. Examples include blood pressure or Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings.
  • Provide food fact sheets. Simply having access to more information can allow employees to make healthier choices.
  • Start employee fitness groups. Examples include walking groups or even sport team creation to compete in local leagues.
  • Conduct individual health-risk assessments (i.e., questionnaires that help assess overall health and risk factors at an individual level). These are usually administered by a third party and come with personalized reports on health risk factors.
  • Give away health-related promotional items. Examples include pedometers or water bottles.
  • Remove on-site food that does not promote good health; replace it with healthier options. This can be implemented in many areas, such as vending machines, cafeterias, catering for meetings, break room options, etc.
  • Provide information on the health benefits of quitting smoking.
  • Distribute other wellness-oriented communications, such as health-related newsletters.
  • Conduct training sessions on health or wellness-related topics.
  • Allow longer lunch breaks to give time for exercise.
  • Provide discounts on health insurance or otherwise reduce the cost.

Of course, employee wellness programs can also be implemented on a much broader scale, too. Here are some more in-depth examples:

  • Adding an on-site fitness center or partnering with a nearby fitness center to offer free employee memberships; and
  • Sponsoring employee contests. (Be sure to follow the latest guidelines under the Affordable Care Act when it comes to participation and rewards.)

Be aware that there are some rules governing wellness programs, particularly when a bonus or discount is based on an actual change in health status (e.g., lower blood pressure or cholesterol) as opposed to simply participating in an activity (e.g., a health screening).

No matter what type of employee wellness programs you implement, be sure to have a plan to communicate the program details to employees. Getting employees excited and involved is the first step to gaining the benefits. Focus on the benefits for the employees in all communications and make it easy to participate, even offering incentives where appropriate.


Can Companies Screen Employees to Prevent Workplace Injuries?

Originally posted February 06, 2014 by Sandy Smith on http://ehstoday.com

Many companies are considering implementing functional capacity evaluations to ensure employees are fit enough to start new jobs or are ready to return to work after an injury.

What happens when increasing staff costs meet tighter skilled labor markets? Productivity becomes an issue, with increasingly more companies – particularly those with physically demanding work – looking to minimize staff downtime and ensure that workflow proceeds as smoothly as possible.

One way companies in Singapore are doing so is by accessing and ensuring that their employees are fit enough for the actual physical work to be done. The physical fitness level assessment of an employee to do his or her job is known as a functional capacity evaluation (FCE). As the name suggests, it measures the capacity of an employee to perform the tasks that their jobs require.

"In the past, it was generally large, foreign [companies] that were asking for FCEs but these days we have done evaluations for local companies,” said Sylvia Ho, the principal physiotherapist at Core Concepts, one of the largest private musculoskeletal healthcare groups in Singapore, specializing in spors medicine, workers’ compensation cases, massotherapy and physical and occupational therapy. “We see increasing demand [for FCEs] in the future. Rising operating cost and labor tightness will make the cost of conducting FCEs more and more viable.”

Functional capacity evaluations measure the ability of employees to carry out certain functional movements. Measurements include strength levels and stamina of certain basic movements involved in most job functions.

Ho said she takes it a little further to combine a musculoskeletal screening that also assesses the body's muscle, joint and skeletal structure to provide information about things like joint flexibility. “With our physiotherapy background, we aim to take a more comprehensive approach in detecting potential problems that may occur in the future,” she said. “Our clients come from a range of industries, including the pharmaceutical industry, the oil and gas industry and heavy manufacturing.”

FCE is only one piece of the productivity puzzle, but one of growing importance, said Ho.

“Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has adopted a national, strategic and long-term approach to achieving sustainable, continuous improvement in workplace safety and health performance. We hope to play our role by helping industries prevent avoidable workplace health incidences,” she said.