Saturday, July 18, 2015

Improving Employee Wellness Programs

Many corporations are interested in on-site wellness programs to reduce obesity or improve the general health of their employees. Keeping employees healthy can increase productivity by reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, which exists when, because of poor health, a person produces less than normal. However, understanding why wellness programs don't always help employees is difficult, because there are workplace barriers that can hinder employees' involvement in the programs. Further, measurements used to evaluate key workplace elements, related to wellness programs, are often inadequate.

Concerning barriers to employee involvement in wellness programs, according to one study, the barriers include "irregular schedules, shiftwork, short breaks, physical job demands, and [inadequate] food options." Further, employees ... are confronted with issues of "motivation, time, money, and conflicting responsibilities." These conditions can limit employee participation in wellness programs.

Another problem associated with wellness programs is the lack of tools that can accurately assess the worksite programs' effectiveness. If good tools were in place, researchers could improve actual environmental elements that might benefit those employees who participate in the wellness programs.

Further, the selection of items being measured doesn't cover some important items. One study looked at the typical items measured. These items include exercise facilities, lockers, showers and healthy eating options such as vending machines. But the investigators found that workplace items that should be included such as the "role models and champions" of the programs were not considered. And these type of exclusions represent important gaps in the measured elements.

Therefore, as the above studies show, barriers to employee participation in workplace programs do exist. And a more accurate assessment of what's happening at the employee's worksite environment should be addressed.

So by removing  barriers to employee participation, and by improving the measurements related to wellness program elements, corporations can better meet the main objective of the programs: keeping employees healthy. Healthcare providers, including obesity medicine experts, can help improve employee health by helping employers improve employee participation in wellness programs.


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