Although health and fitness resolutions may already be in the rearview mirror with little change for many, the benefits of healthy living extend to the workplace, and although many resolutions may be long abandoned, the overarching benefits of health and wellness should not be forgotten. The positive effects stemming from these benefits may make for a more efficient workforce, with fewer sick days and higher productivity. Moreover, as employers face hiring difficulties, an employee health program can serve as a helpful recruiting and retention tool and help set a company apart from the pack. The correlation between a healthy workforce, fewer job site accidents, and the possibility of avoiding costly mistakes also underscores the potential benefits of making an investment in employee health and well-being.
While enhanced employee health programs imply hard costs, employers may see an offset to those expenses in the form of cost savings in sick pay and health insurance premiums. Healthy employees are happy employees, which ultimately extends to a more productive workplace and a more effective workforce. Workplace health programs can help close the gap between work/life balance, potentially improving the quality of both as a result.
Employers interested taking advantage of these benefits and becoming more involved in their workforce’s health should consider implementing employee wellness programs, which can take many forms. From company-sponsored gym memberships and employee fitness teams to health screenings and vaccination clinics, options exist to help your employees feel valued and supported when it comes to personal wellness.
For employers unsure of which type of program might be the best fit, asking employees about their preferences can be beneficial to garner a better understanding of the workforce’s particular wants and needs so that programs can be tailored specifically to match those interests. Surveys are an excellent way to gather information, and larger employers may find it helpful to establish a wellness program advisory team or committee to oversee the implementation and participation in these programs. Employers rolling out these types of programs and incentives should engage their employees in developing and sustaining a workable employee health program and ensuring participation throughout the year. Employee interest and involvement is essential, and employers should carefully monitor employee response when evaluating whether to modify or discontinue certain benefits.
Employers may be uncomfortable with the concept of becoming involved with employees’ health, and rightfully so in some aspects. Legal concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can arise in relation to programs focused on employee health. Employers should take care to avoid denying access to a wellness program to any employee on the basis of a real or perceived disability, and should ensure there is a plan for providing reasonable accommodations where necessary for those employees with disabilities to allow them full access and participation in the program. As always, any personal health information gathered by employers should be kept confidential, separate from the employee’s personnel file, and should only be released on a need-to-know basis.
* This article first appeared in The Journal Record on February 3, 2023, and is reproduced with permission from the publisher.