Workplace Wellness: Better Health for the Employee and Business

By Amy Schmidt

Workplace wellness is a movement people in the work force may hear about. For many years, large and successful businesses have known that the health and wellbeing of their employees contributes to overall business success; when employees are healthier, businesses have less turnover, employees are more productive, and businesses thrive. While not a new concept in the business world, what is new about workplace wellness is that more resources are becoming available to assist medium and small businesses in communities throughout the state, including Cook County.

Workplace wellness is a concept that seeks to support employee health and create workplace environments that encourage positive lifestyle behaviors, such as increased physical activity, healthy eating, reduced tobacco exposure and reduced stress. While it remains important to focus on these healthy behaviors in areas such as clinics, schools, and communities, bringing wellness concepts into the workplace is an important and effective strategy for making health accessible to all people. According to a recent study, working adults spend at least half of their waking hours in their workplace, making it a convenient environment for promoting health and preventing disease.

Sponsored by businesses, nonprofits, and state and national agencies, worksite wellness programs are popping up all over the state. In Minnesota, nearly 55 percent of employers with 100 or more employees now offer some form of health promotion program. With everything from tobacco-free worksite policies, to walking meetings and increased breastfeeding support for working moms, businesses are working hard to bring wellness to their employees. By using strategies that change the policies, systems and environments in the workplace, long-term health benefits can be achieved.

And it’s paying off in more ways than one. Not only are employees and their families healthier overall, they report higher workplace morale and greater job satisfaction. This, in turn, means good things for the employers, including higher job retention rates, decreased sick days, reduced overall healthcare costs and claims, increased productivity and competitive recruiting status. In short, when wellness is at the front of worksite focus, everybody wins.

Fortunately, the process doesn’t need to be as daunting as it might seem, nor does it necessitate a complete overhaul of the daily flow of a workplace. The Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, with support from the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), will be starting a workplace wellness collaborative for local businesses and organizations interested in creating a healthier workplace this winter. Members of the group will receive support in creating healthier workplaces through assessment, development of a plan and sharing of experiences with other businesses during the roughly year-long process. For more information about the workplace collaborative, or if you are interested in joining the collaborative, please contact Hartley Newell-Acero at hartley@sawtoothmountainclinic.org or call 218-387-2330.

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By Amy Schmidt