According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the workplace is an important setting for health protection, health promotion and disease prevention programs. On average, Americans working full-time spend more than one-third of their day, five days per week at the workplace. The following information was taken from the CDC Workplace website:
While employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace, they also have abundant opportunities to promote individual health and foster a healthy work environment for more than 159 million workers in the United States (Accessed US Bureau of Labor Statistics April 12, 2016).
The use of effective workplace programs and policies can reduce health risks and improve the quality of life for American workers.
Maintaining a healthier workforce can lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and worker’s compensation claims. It will also positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity.1, 2
To improve the health of their employees, businesses can create a wellness culture that is employee-centered; provides supportive environments where safety is ensured and health can emerge; and provides access and opportunities for their employers to engage in a variety of workplace health programs.
What are workplace health programs?
Workplace health programs refer to a coordinated and comprehensive set of strategies which include programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community designed to meet the health and safety needs of all employees.
Examples of workplace health program components and strategies include:
- Health education classes
- Access to local fitness facilities
- Company policies that promote healthy behaviors such as a tobacco-free campus policy
- Employee health insurance coverage for appropriate preventive screenings
- A healthy work environment created through actions such as making healthy foods available and accessible through vending machines or cafeterias
- A work environment free of recognized health and safety threats with a means to identify and address new problems as they arise
Impact of workplace health programs
Workplace health programs can lead to change at both the individual (i.e., employee) and the organization levels.
For individuals, workplace health programs have the potential to impact an employee’s health, such as their health behaviors; health risks for disease; and current health status.
For organizations, workplace health programs have the potential to impact areas such as health care costs, absenteeism, productivity, recruitment/retention, culture and employee morale.
Employers, workers, their families and communities all benefit from the prevention of disease and injury and from sustained health.
Workplace Health Program Development Checklist can be found here to help you get started:
A good place to begin is an Organizational Level Assessment- here is some information to get you started thinking about employee needs, interests, and possible barriers when implementing workplace health programs.
Another assessment that should be considered is at the Employee Level- An employee health survey can be a low-cost way to assess the health attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of a given employee population and serves as an informative tool when planning new programs and policies.
The following are some key topic areas around workplace wellness and employee health that should be considered when creating or expanding worksite wellness practices and policies. Please use the below links to explore more about each topic including risks to employees, any screening recommendations, program and policy ideas and evaluation tools. Use these resources in combination with the above assessments to assist your workplace in developing an appropriate and successful worksite health promotion program.