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Viewpoint: Companies are creating healthier worksites to help improve employee well-being

By Ann Marie O'Brien

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Throughout my career, I’ve learned from employers and employees about worksite hurdles — those issues or hassles that prevent employees from being engaged, successful, and happy at their jobs. To help encourage employees to be satisfied and more productive, an increasing number of employers are looking to their employee well-being programs for answers. 

According to a survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health, 67 percent of companies plan to expand their well-being programs over the next few years. UnitedHealthcare’s 2019 Wellness Check Up Survey revealed that 57 percent of employees with access to an employer-sponsored well-being program say the initiative has had a positive effect on their health. 

Although many companies see value and results from their well-being programs, other companies struggle (More information about successful well-being programs is available at: https://newsroom.uhc.com/employee-wellness-programs-bring-results.html). May was Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, an opportunity for employers to reexamine their employee well-being programs and ensure their worksites are aligned with their programs. 

The following are some initiatives that some employers have taken to align their worksites with a focus on employee engagement, health, and well-being.

Encourage staying active

Having a meeting? Put your walking shoes on and talk on the go by having a “walk-and-talk” meeting. Employees whose jobs require them to sit at a desk all day may appreciate the change, and it may be good for their health. Also, onsite yoga may offer numerous physical and emotional benefits. Additional ideas to consider include onsite walking trails and fitness equipment and classes, treadmill conference rooms, and stand-up desks.

Reduce employee stress 

Use available office space to create a low-lit “relaxation room” to help employees’ recharge and lower their stress levels. Also consider offering employees a mindfulness program that may help fill the workplace with positive energy, where working relationships are optimized and distractions give way to focus and self-awareness. Additional ideas to consider: a five-minute stretching routine, paid time off for volunteer work, and behavioral health counseling. 

Healthier food options

Ensure healthier food options are available in vending machines and cafeterias, and at company events. Also, consider putting healthier options at eye-level within those vending machines and denoting those options with stickers. Additional ideas to consider: a free onsite salad bar, onsite cooking demonstrations, a fruit sampling day, or even onsite gardens to help increase teamwork. 

Prioritize employee health

Consider banning all forms of tobacco (and vaping/e-cigarettes) from company premises, at company events and within company vehicles. Also, consider dedicating a private room for telehealth appointments (virtual doctor’s visits) and allow employees to connect to a telehealth care provider as needed during the workday. Additional ideas to consider: onsite biometric screenings and flu shots, find a wellness champion for the office, and offer financial well-being programs.                  

Ann Marie O’Brien, R.N., is national director of health strategies at UnitedHealthcare and is based at its New York City office.

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