Employee Health Management Part 2

The following is part 2 of a transcription from a webinar we hosted with Synbella, a corporate wellness program coordinator. Need to catch up on part 1? Read it here

The CDC came up with a newer concept called total worker health (TWH) which is the idea of integrating safety and wellness. If you’re in Manufacturing, you know how serious your employee’s safety is. As a demographic, they don’t really take wellness seriously, they tend to think of it as ‘fluff’, but they take safety very seriously. They always have on their personal protective equipment, they always are careful because they cannot get hurt. They know the safety training is very important and something they have to value within their job. When you integrate safety and wellness into the same program, and what I mean by that is pulling wellness and dropping it into the safety program, they take it much more seriously. In 2015, 1 in 5 Americans were 55 years or older. This means this statistic has only increased. When people become older, typically what comes along is higher chronic disease, higher risk for severe injury, and a slower recovery time. So it is very important to make sure those employees are not going to be hurt because they’re going to be off work for longer, their issues will cost more, and they’re going to be more chronic. You should really focus on how you can keep these employees healthy through prevention. 

One of the latest reports from MIOSHA talks about how health is not unidirectional. So work affects health and health effects work. The average cost of worker’s comp increases substantially for employees with comorbid conditions. Again, here you’ll be able to see those different silos in action so if we know somebody is comorbid their worker’s comp costs increase significantly. There is an association between workers with chronic health conditions and an increased likelihood of a safety incident or injury on the job. 

When we think about safety, we often think about manufacturing floor plants and working with chemicals, but we often forget about sitting. Sitting has been dubbed the new smoking and I just want to give you an understanding about why it is that way. The CDC did a large study in Australia and they talked about the all-cause mortality increase by how often you’re sitting. So if you’re sitting 8-11 hours a day, your all cause mortality increases by 15%. That means no matter what you’re doing outside of that 8-11 hours a day, you can go to the gym for an hour, walk around your block a hundred times, run a marathon, it doesn’t affect the fact that if you sit 8-11 hours a day, your all cause mortality increases by 15%. If you’re sitting more than 11 hours a day, it is increased by 40%. It is so important to understand what is happening when we’re sitting all day. If you think about the body and how the body works, we have a lymphatic system that helps remove toxins from the body. These lymph nodes need stimulation in order to work, so our arms and legs act like pumps; they are literally priming your lymphatic system. When we sit all day long that lymphatic system dramatically decreases, if not stagnates. Because of this, those toxins are not being removed from the body and our respiration rate slows down. We’re not taking deep breaths, we’re taking very shallow breaths sitting at a desk all day. The examples can go on, but all of these systems we have in the body come together to create a healthy body that removes toxins and takes blood to the right areas. 

So, how can you encourage movement with your employees? This is very much a culture of health issues and this is why we have a new focus on a culture of health. Can we have treadmill desks? I know they’re expensive, but I have some large clients that have treadmill desks that they rent out like someone would a conference room. That movement in the middle of the day is key, but it is not the big movement, but also the little movement. What I’ve done at my work station, is I’ve removed everything from my desk within easy reach. The pens and pencils are across the room along with my files and my phone. This makes it so easy every 3-10 minutes when I need one of those things, I have to get up and take a few steps. A few steps is not a big deal, but it is priming the pumps on the body and starting to move the lymphatic fluid and getting my muscles engaged. Little by little I am giving my body some type of priming by doing that. There are many different ways you can do this whether it is going to get the mail, converting to stand up desks, or moving everyone’s printer to a central location which forces them to walk. 

You can do an electronic stand-up desk that goes up and down on its own. This makes it so you have to stand up or you have to sit down. That way, you don’t get someone a stand-up desk and they just leave it in the down position all day. 

So we’re taking a very holistic look at wellness, which is taking it from wellness to well-being and positively impacting our company culture. We know stress is a top participant driver. 78 percent of employers include financial wellness, mental health and more in their workplace wellbeing programs. If you think about it, financial wellness is a huge piece of wellness because a lot of people's stressors revolve around finances. There are 401k providers that will come in and do free trainings. MET (Michigan Educational Trust) has some free training out there. You might not have a huge uptake in this, but it is free and the people who really do need it come and it really helps reduce their stress. We’re seeing a mindset change from health risk assessment (HRA) and biometrics to improving the lives of employees. You need to look at how you can increase happiness and quality of life for your employees. 

There are some culture things you can do to help your employees as well. How often are you trying to skate out of work to get your dry cleaning, how often do you make an appointment to get your B12 shot? You should get one every 2-4 weeks because B12 is actually the vitamin that helps you combat stress. What we do in our office is we gather at least 10 people that will get their B12 shot and the employee pays $6 for the shot and the physician comes right to our office and gives the shot. You can do vaccines on site, a chiropractor, a physical therapist, and some larger corporations even have clinics right on site. 

Childcare and pet care, or even pet therapy and bringing pets to work has really made it’s way into the workplace. Meditation and relaxation rooms are becoming more common along with gyms and fitness classes. Another thing to think about is massage. You can bring a masseuse on site and even have your employees pay for it. If you let them take the time during company hours, but they pay for it, it is amazing what a 10 or 20-minute massage can do in the middle of the day. 

Bringing bike tune-ups right on site is another idea. We have everyone bring in their bike and we spend a couple hours down at the bike tune-up. The shop brings a van and does the tune-ups right in the parking lot of our office. I can’t tell you how many years I used to go without getting a bike tune-up because I was so busy with things. You can also do car cleaning or window repair. 

We talk a lot about full spectrum lighting and if you know anything about the sun’s rays and how it emits, you've probably heard that blue lighting is something you shouldn’t be using late at night. This is because blue lighting actually signals the brain to get going. Blue lights are what is actually emitted from the sun from the time the sun goes up until about noon. It sends a cue to our body to get up, get going, and start our day, but then around noon it starts leveling out and then in the afternoon it switches to an amber. If you ever think about being in amber lighting, it is very calming and really relaxes you. This is literally the earth’s way of cueing us in and out of how we’re supposed to be reacting. That is why they tell us to not use blue lights in the evening because it will keep you awake. You can do full spectrum lighting in your office that actually will give your employees the proper cues. A lot of times the fluorescent lights used in an office are not full spectrum and this can actually wreak havoc on the body. They can make it difficult to see, especially when you’re staring at blue light computer screens all day. 

Giving discounts to your employees for gyms, fitness studios, yoga studios, or pilates. Another big thing is encouraging PTO. Encourage your employees to take time off and to take vacation instead of rolling over their time. Vacation is an important piece in helping your employees de-stress. Even if they aren’t going away, the time spent away from work is good for them. A big stress buster people don’t think about is electronic disconnect. Encourage your employees to disconnect from their phones, social media, and email even when they leave the office. Germany passed a law in recent years that no one is allowed to check their email after work ends at 5pm. It became such an issue that people were working around the clock and there was no divide between personal life and work life. 

Come back on Monday for part 3.