An increasing percentage of employers across the country are adopting workplace wellness programs because research shows that, when done correctly, they effectively improve the health of employees, which, in turn, increases employee productivity. Workplace wellness programs also have been shown to reduce the number of reported workplace accidents resulting from overweight, tired, out-of-shape, stressed, and sleep-deprived workers. A recent Harvard University research study by economics professors found that every dollar employees invest in workplace wellness programs returns an estimated $3.27 in medical costs and a decrease of $2.73 in absentee-day costs.
For many businesses, the pandemic ushered in big changes to the workplace, with a tremendous shift to remote work. It also elevated everyone’s consciousness about employee health, making it a higher priority. According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, more than 70% of workers have described the pandemic as the most stressful time in their careers—including everything from pay cuts and financial stress, losing someone to the disease, juggling remote work with home responsibilities, and more. The combination of these repercussions has increased emphasis on workplace wellness, for both in-house and remote employees.
A simple but fantastic place to start is with Aqua Systems. In a reality where everyone is hyper-aware of the health, safety, and accessibility of their lifestyle practices, Aqua Systems (ilovemywater.com/lincoln) delivers truly filtered water that can help your employees stay hydrated, safe, and healthy. Their water systems help you forego adding to the alarming environmental impact of bottled water, which is both wasteful and bad for the environment because plastic bottles take more than 1,000 years to bio-degrade and, if incinerated, produce toxic fumes. What’s more, there are more standards regulating tap water in the U.S. than bottled water, so the quality can be questionable. Aqua Systems filtered water systems can provide the best of all worlds as a solid base for your workplace wellness programs.
The Built Environment
AOI Corporation (aoicorp.com) has also recently seen increased interest from business owners in both workplace-re-entry and work-from-home employee-wellness support. AOI focuses on the built environment in which people work, regardless of the location because people are heavily influenced by their surrounding environment. It affects their productivity, decisions, and wellness, with factors such as flexibility, collaboration, innovation, and sustainability becoming paramount to achieving the most from a work and business space. AOI provides the full range of solutions for the built environment through construction, furniture, and architectural products.
“At AOI, we are seeing an uptick in inquiries from clients specifically related to workplace re-entry and work from home support,” said General Manager Penny Johnston. “Work for many in the future will be more distributed between home and the office, and business will need to adapt to continue supporting their employees’ health and wellness wherever they are working.”
AOI’s Do it Right This Time (DIRTT) team identifies and offers unique product and design alternatives to create both in-office and work-from-home solutions that also employ environmentally conscientious materials. Their customers benefit from precise design and cost estimating, rapid lead times, and faster, cleaner construction. AOI’s DIRTT solutions include prefabricated construction solutions for efficient and sustainable interiors, low-profile raised access floors suitable for power, data, and building-management technologies, quick-connect, pre-tested, and adaptable electrical solutions, simple systems for incorporating plants into living-wall applications, and dynamic design elements that respond to your space and needs. They are a certified dealer for Herman Miller furniture and offer furniture groups that transform ordinary spaces into collaborative, innovative environments. Armed with the most credible research and the latest data, their sales and design team provides the expertise to help you create inspiring interior landscapes and work-from-home setups that contribute to overall employee wellness.
“For companies supporting work-from-home options, their employee home offices need to have the same ergonomic features one expects at the office,” Penny said. “Many companies are establishing work-from-home programs that allow employees to be reimbursed for items such as a good ergonomic desk chair and a height-adjustable desk. Our partnership with Herman Miller allows us the ability to help companies create work-from-home standard offerings and streamline the process.”
The very crux of workplace wellness is the physical health of your employees. Operating under the direct primary care model, Access Family Medicine (accessfamilymedicine.com) is now offering wellness screenings to businesses that enroll in their membership program. Once a year, they visit employees at their business location and offer blood-pressure checks and screening lab work to evaluate for individual health-screening markers. They also provide onsite flu shots for member businesses, as well as physicals and acute-care visits for all employees.
“The Direct Primary Care Model is really set up to thrive in the type of situation the pandemic brings,” said Certified Physician Assistant Krystal Jackson. “Much of what we do can be done virtually via Telehealth visits. In fact, many of our patients who previously would have come into the office for a visit now prefer to do virtual visits and appreciate the convenience of being able to communicate electronically. Specifically, I like to reconnect with patients after starting them on a new medication to see how they are responding or tolerating the new medication. This can easily be done through a telephone visit. In general these types of visits consist mostly discussion of how the patient is feeling and responding versus an actual exam. We can do this without the patient having to miss work or physically come into the office, while still getting feedback from them and answering any questions they may have directly.”
Access Family Medicine now has about 40 member businesses in Lincoln that have signed up their employees for health memberships. The cost is far lower than in the traditional healthcare models, so employees can address all of their healthcare needs. Cost savings impact both the employer and the employees. Their goal is to provide a healthcare option helps businesses keep their talented staff by providing a healthcare option that makes sense for everyone.
Among the most highly promoted workplace wellness programs of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (lincoln.ne.gov/City/Departments/Health-Department) is Tobacco Free Lancaster County, TFLC. Through this program, they offer free technical assistance to businesses and organizations that want to implement or improve their tobacco-free policies. They also have a free toolkit and signage to help support your policy, and they can answer questions about a particular challenge or send you monthly tips, resources, and event opportunities. Funding for the program is provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services/Tobacco Free Nebraska Program as a result of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
“More and more businesses are implementing tobacco-free policies, which reduces the risk of secondhand smoke and aerosol exposure, while creating an opportunity to motivate employees to quit tobacco,” said Public Health Educator Sophia Yelkin. “We are seeing businesses raise the bar for tobacco-free work environments by protecting their entire campus with tobacco-free policies. Tobacco-free work environments save businesses money and helps support the efforts of those who have quit tobacco.”
Ensuring the work environment is tobacco-free saves money previously lost from reduced productivity and medical expenditures, while simultaneously supporting the efforts of those who want to and have quit tobacco. In fact, the CDC attributes a loss of $3,391 per smoker each year for businesses, while seven out of 10 people who use tobacco products report wanting to quit. Successful tobacco-free policies directly address both these concerns. What’s more, sales from tobacco products have increased during the pandemic, point to even more need to educate and support employees about nicotine addiction.
“People often use cigarettes or other tobacco products as a way to reduce stress, however, it’s the withdrawal of nicotine that feels stressful,” Sophia said. “Nicotine creates stress in the body. Throughout the COVID pandemic, we have worked to ensure accurate information that can be shared easily to employees both at home and on the worksite.”
Emotional & Mental Wellness
Emotional and mental wellness also is crucial to building overall workplace wellness, especially in such changing times. Leadership Harbor (leadershipharbor.com) offers the full spectrum of tools, coaching, and general guidance to help business owners help their employees achieve wellness. One of their highly effective programs is called CALM (the acronym for stay Calm, Ask questions, and actively Listen, Lead, and Move). Leadership Harbor brings it to any business or organization for FREE because they consider it so essential to our community’s wellbeing.
“It’s been a hard year,” said Kris Peterson, a certified leadership, parenting, family, and youth coach with Leadership Harbor and an executive director with The John Maxwell Team. “CALM is a bullying and suicide-prevention protocol where we talk about causes, symptoms, getting comfortable about having related conservations, and what to do if someone you know is dealing with bullying or suicidal feelings.”
Leadership Harbor also provides a variety of learning systems and workshops for individuals or groups that teach employees or leaders what might be holding them back and how to tear down those walls to be their best self.
“When we are actively learning, we are literally rebuilding conscious belief systems that are negative in our ears, and relearning to relay those belief systems with positive force literally helps us to find confidence,” Kris said. “We can help with energies and resolve remaining issues associated with a physical return to work, as so many have become accustomed to working from home in the last year and it’s going to be a huge change for them if the time comes to go back to an office workplace with others. Our individual and team coaching programs can help employers unlock their own and their employees’ potential and help everyone feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is when we grow, change, and get creative.”
Gone are the days that the health and wellness of your workforce holds little responsibility for business owners and employers. Fortunately, Lincoln is home to some tremendous companies that can help you achieve a healthy, happy workforce and maximized production. We recommend you give these folks a call if you’re looking to create a better workplace wellness program for your employees!