A hot topic this year within both the incentive realm and the wellness realm has been the rise of obesity in America and the growing importance for health initiatives in the workplace. Incentive Magazine covers this topic in its November/December issue in an article titled “To Your Health” by senior editor Andrea Doyle. The main crux of the article focuses on wellness initiatives being not only good for your employees, but good for your bottom line by lowering insurance premiums.
Doyle’s article starts out by saying that, while most Americans are well aware of what it takes to be healthy, many are not willing to put forth the effort toward maintaining their health. She cites a study called “F is in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012,” which states, “By 2030, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion in the US, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030.” This also translates to exorbitant medical costs spent on treating issues that are entirely preventable.
To combat this – and in direct response to employees spending more and more time in the office and generally sedentary – companies are offering wellness incentives to help raise awareness and offer motivation for choosing habits that have huge payoffs but are often very challenging to stick with, especially during holiday season and other times of year.
One such company noted in the article is Hallmark Business Connections, which offers 13 weeks of weight loss classes to employees. If an employee attends 12 of the 13 classes, the company pays for the program, according to Jennifer Patel, who leads Hallmark’s health and wellness team.
“A colleague lost almost 50 pounds as a result of participating in this program, and it has changed her life,” Patel says. “It’s also proof that if you provide opportunities and incentives for your employees to make behavior changes, amazing things can happen.”
Doyle points to another company in her article, FC USA, which has its own full-time wellness guru in Susan Levy Malandra – whose official title is Healthwise Coordinator for the company. While hiring a full-time health coordinator may be out of reach for many companies, the programs Malandra uses to motivate her colleagues are not.
Malandra, who has 20 years of teaching group fitness classes under her belt, uses pedometers, contests and organized runs to help motivate her FC USA colleagues. She also travels around the country and meets with all US-based employees for “Bio Age” consultations, which tests a variety of physical, nutritional and lifestyle factors to determine the employees overall well-being, or Bio Age.
Malandra notes that follow-up is key to success and she regularly checks in on employees’ progress and writes a monthly newsletter that includes healthy lifestyle tips and recipes. And as an incentive to stay on track or meet goals, FC USA offers trips, merchandise, raffles and cash rewards to its employees for maintaining their healthy lifestyles.
Implementing a wellness initiative at your company isn’t hard, but it does take time, creativity and the interest of your employees. The first steps are always the hardest, but if you can find ways to motivate your employees and incentivize their progress and goals, you’ll be that much closer to increased productivity and decreased medical costs. Plus, you’ll be setting up your employees for a lifetime of wellness, and there is truly nothing more important than your health!