Why worksite wellness matters

Almost one-third of the workforce now spends the majority of their day seated at their desks plugged into workstations. Sedentary lifestyles have become a concern of epic proportion. More than 66 percent of Wisconsin adults are overweight or obese. As the number of overweight adults increases so does their risk of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, arthritis and others. This epidemic is placing a huge burden on our healthcare system and economy. 

What can businesses do to ensure their workforce consists of healthy, productive employees? By fostering health promotion, employers can play a huge role in helping their employees take important steps toward preventing unnecessary sickness and death. Worksites can be the best place to address nutrition and physical activity issues. This is why, according to the Wellness Council of America, 81 percent of America’s businesses with 50 or more employees have some form of health promotion program.

The idea behind worksite wellness programs is to encourage individuals to take measures to prevent the onset or worsening of an illness or disease and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

A supportive work environment, where managers reinforce a sound wellness strategy, can keep employees motivated and engaged. Wellness and in- centive programs can be used to drive and reinforce healthy behaviors, bringing benefits to the employer, the employee and to the community.

While some businesses have instituted very comprehensive wellness programs, others have achieved savings or increased productivity with just a few simple activities that promote healthy behaviors. Worksite health promotion should be viewed as an investment in a business’ most important asset, its employees. Studies show that employees are more likely to be on the job and performing well when they are in optimal health.

Some benefits of implementing a wellness program can include: Reducing absenteeism and lost time; improving employee morale; improved disease management and prevention, and a healthier workforce in general. These benefits can contribute to lower health care costs for employers and employees.

What can we do as employees? If you already work for an employer that offers any type of wellness program-participate! If your worksite doesn’t offer a wellness program ask your employer about starting one! A Wisconsin Worksite Wellness kit is available to all businesses free of charge –this kit was developed to assist businesses in starting, adding or maintaining a wellness program for their staff. It is a step-by-step guide to use in assessing your worksite, identifying what types of activities to implement, links to in- formation on how to implement and ways to determine effectiveness. Contact the Healthy Sheboygan County Activity and Nutrition Coalition for further information on how to obtain one of these kits or find it at dhs.wisconsin.gov/physica-lactivity/Worksite/kit.htm.

It will take active involvement of many public and private partners to change systems, community and individual behaviors. Worksites are one key environment for that change to take place. By working together, Sheboygan can be known as a community that supports healthy lifestyles!

Jeri L. Dreikosen, RN, BSN, CWWPM, is EAP/wellness coordinator for the Sheboygan Area School District and member of the HSC2020 SCAN committee.