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Keeping your team healthy: What the benefits are

|May 11|magazine11 min read
Health and wellness programs are the latest trend in benefits offered by companies. Popular among large companies and those within the health industries, incentives for keeping employees healthy are extending into other industries as well.
Wellness entails more than ergonomics and safety on the job; it includes employee satisfaction and morale. Employee satisfaction increases with training and development, communication, recognition, and access to the resources to help an employee cope with stress in and out of the workplace. This is especially true for high-stress management positions, where decision-making rests on the shoulders of a few managers.
Wellness programs benefit the company in several ways. First, they ensure that employees are healthy, which translates to fewer sick days and less time off to see the doctor. Second, they increase productivity of the employees and help them manage stress. Finally, wellness programs may reduce health insurance costs for the employer and employee. Though some businesses may shy away from wellness programs due to initial costs, they end up saving money in the long run.
In stressful industries or positions, a company may focus on stress management to help their employees deal with stress in the workplace and at home in order to maintain productivity and job satisfaction. Many companies survey their employees to assess satisfaction with the company and discover points of stress in their lives, both on and off the job. With this information, the company can direct the employee to a program that teaches them to cope with their stress more effectively.
Health centers around the country specialize in providing comprehensive physical and lifestyle exams to executives and managers to assess their health and spot diseases in their early, most treatable stages. Innovative technology is used to diagnose and screen the body for abnormalities and disease, evaluate lifestyle and provide tools to maintain health over the long  term. Since all of the specialists are located in a single location, the complete testing takes place over the course of a day. Comprehensive testing helps executives, managers, and administrators achieve and maintain optimal health.
Companies encourage healthy behavior by offering programs that run the gamut from helping employees stop smoking to providing support for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Others encourage employees to exercise, lose weight, make healthy food choices, or seek pre-natal care. For many executives and managers the question remains: how do companies get their employees to participate in these programs?
Some companies offer rebates and free t-shirts; others offer gift certificates and days off. Often based on a point system, employees accrue a specific number of points every time they visit a gym, walk during their lunch hour, or do not smoke for a year. Companies have also found that allowing employees to participate in an exercise program during work hours is an effective way to reach those employees who are unmotivated before or after work or have other commitments during these time frames.
Businesses also team up with local gyms or gym chains to offer discounted memberships, waived initiation fees, or other perks to employees. Though many office buildings have a gym onsite, open to all employees who work in the building, some companies including Adidas and Reliant Pharmaceuticals have their own gym facilities located onsite as well. By encouraging the use of convenient gym facilities, a business can reap the benefits of a healthy team.
There is debate as to whether incentive programs are effective. Those opposed contend employees should not receive compensation for improving their health. Though many businesses see merit in using an incentive-based wellness program, they may not implement it until employee participation in the program has reduced.
Even without incentives set in place by management, employees often take it upon themselves to exercise before or after work. Either through co-ed sports teams or having a buddy to work out with after work, employees who exercise together keep each other motivated and maintain a healthy lifestyle long term.
“I’ve found in my own workplace that the more people who are involved in an exercise program, the more fun it becomes. You want to exercise more and look forward to sharing your results with others,” stated Candace Couture, Director of Franchise Admissions for the health club Planet Fitness.
No one can debate the merits of a healthy lifestyle. Those who exercise, eat right, and lead a healthy lifestyle have more energy and are more productive than their sedentary counterparts. Healthy employees who can effectively manage their stress benefit the company through cost savings and fewer sick days. By encouraging healthy behavior, either through an established wellness program or other incentives, a company can foster a more productive work force.