Employee Health Management Part 3

The following is part 3 of a transcription from a webinar we hosted with Synbella, a corporate wellness program coordinator. To read part 2 click here.

I also want to talk about campus health. We mentioned that sitting is the new smoking, so look into adding walking paths or clubs. Even if you already have a big area with sidewalks, if you got out and walk that perimeter and found out how long it is and then give your employees a PDF of the route and it’s mileage, people will start walking. Offer ideas like that and people will do it. Consider setting up stretch breaks and stations. We put up stretches in our printer room and it is awesome to see people doing their stretches while waiting for their documents to print. Think about stairwell decoration. Going up and down the stairs is great, but not many people will want to go up and down dingy, dimly lit stairs that are dirty. Think about how you can improve that space with paint or even keeping it cleaner. You can do onsite classes. Mini classes work great too and we often think we need to do these one-hour classes, but a lot of times employees don’t want to get sweaty. If you do a 10 or 15-minute class, maybe on Mondays focusing on arms, maybe Wednesday the focus is on core, and Friday the focus is on legs. Just a 15-minute class is very doable and your employees don’t have to worry about getting sweaty. And of course, put in place tobacco free zones. 

Also, make sure to provide healthy food for your employees. Whether that means changing up the vending machine, finding local restaurants and creating a menu with options, approving the type of food that comes in for your meetings, subsidizing the healthy cafeteria options, and food truck options.

So, revitalizing your program and thinking outside of the box - how can you do different unique things that are engaging your employees. Smoothie bars are a great way to do this and we’ve had a lot of success with them. We do lunch raids unexpectedly and bring in a nutritionist and go through the cafeteria and reward anyone that has healthy options with a $5 gift card to that cafeteria. Teaching meditation is a great new wellness idea that is picking up a lot of steam. Gratitude initiatives are also getting more popular. Random acts of wellness such as leaving a note on your employee’s desk telling them they can leave one hour early today because you want them to be healthy and well. Who knows what they will do with that hour, but they’re going to think about it and it should be part of the wellness program. Community volunteer projects are great because helping others makes us feel good about ourselves. There are really a lot of things you can do. 

One of the most important things is to evaluate and measure your programs. Here are four evaluation tools for you:

  • HERO (Program Measurement Guide)
  • SHRM (Evaluating Worksite Wellness)
  • CDC (Worksite Health Scorecard)

They’re all great resources, but I do want to caution you a little bit because they are long surveys and they kind of take you off point. What I mean by that is if you’re already doing something, you might think “I’m not doing enough”. I want you to not get deflated and realize there is no company who can answer ‘yes’ to every single suggestion. You’ll find a lot of ideas from the evaluation tools and it will give you metrics for your program. 

I also want you to realize you have current resources that you can definitely leverage. You have carrier resources that can help you with reports, screenings, and vaccinations. Many of them have cost-free digital platforms with health risk assessment, health coaching, and educational content. They often have toolkits with readiness surveys of their own along with wellness calendars, challenges, and more. There are also resources in the community and non-profits galore that will come out to your location. The American Heart Association, The American Diabetic Association, The Cancer Association, Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and more will want to come out and help with this. It’s shocking but dental and vision carrier resources are another great benefit to add into your wellness program. Actually, annual eye exams can detect serious health conditions such as diabetes, brain tumor, and high cholesterol. Just like you should do a push around primary care visits, you should do so around eye exams. When it comes to dental, it is the same exact thing. We need to get at least two cleanings a year and I bet if you were to pull the annual report from your carrier, you’d see the majority of your employees are not doing that. A lot of our body’s health is directly correlated to the mouth. 

We talked a little bit about worker’s comp and what they can do, but in addition to that, you should look into ergonomic evaluations, safety inspections, or even lunch and learns. When you hire a new person, do you show them how to set up their desk or chair? So often we get in the habit of always looking right to the computer or using our phone on the right side and when we tweak our necks we don’t realize it was from 4 years of bad movement. We all have EAP’s (Employee Assistance Program) and these are a nice program to tap into for stress reduction programs, general health, addiction, recovery, retirement planning, legal advice, and so much more. 

As a business owner or an HR executive, regardless of your title, you have stress in your job. This is especially true if you’re dealing with benefits and wellness and how you’re going to make all of this work. I really enjoy being able to teach people these easy upgrades because it is possible. Like I said earlier, society does not stack the cards in our favor. Our entire food and work system is set up in a very unhealthy way so we have to figure out how to reduce our own stress and how to make ourselves healthy through our lifestyle choices. I also tell my corporate audience to make sure to take periodic breaks throughout the day. Take a few minutes to do some deep breathing. It is amazing the physiological changes that happen within the body. A few deep breaths in and out of our nose send signals to our brains that take us out of the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is a wonderful response when we need to jump out of the way of a car that might hit us, or run from someone who is attacking us, but not in corporate America. A few deep breaths can completely reserve that fight or flight syndrome. It is important to start to understand how to do these things and how to apply them in your life. I always tell people “Look, you can take three minutes and go to the bathroom, or you can take three minutes and close your door to deep breathe.” It’s not that long and what can happen in three minutes and how quickly your body’s physiological response can kick in is so worth it. 

Learning meditation is another wonderful thing to do and if you’re not ready to learn meditation, there are really great apps out there that can guide you. There is a free app called Insight Meditation so check that out if you’re interested. Stretching is another thing. Our mind is actually tensing up our muscles and can cause aches. A lot of times this happens because our mind is so focused and hasn’t relaxed in a while that it sends signals to our muscles to cramp up. We have things coming at us from all directions at all times. We have toxins everywhere; I mean that mentally and physically. There are people that are negative towards us, we have our own stressors, family and friends that are coming about, coworkers, bosses, children, and just so much that is happening. We also have a lot of toxins coming in through our food system and often even our water. We want to learn how to reduce that so we can start to heal our bodies. A big part of that is sleep. Your body regenerates during sleep, so make sure you're getting enough. Everyone is different, we all have a different zen place. Find what makes you feel grounded and relaxed and be sure to do a little more of that.