Employee health and wellness are a crucial factor in a company’s overall health costs; implementing effective programs are proven to help reduce those costs. One city that is taking health incentives seriously is Milton, Washington. Reaping the benefits of its efforts and being recognized for those efforts, it was given the Association of Washington Cities' WellCity award.
Reporting on the recognition, the Fife Free Press stated that for an initial investment of $1000, Milton received a 2 percent discount on its worker health insurance premiums for 2012. This amounts to a $13,500 savings.
Subir Mukerjee, the City Administrator, noted that the discount would obviously help, but more than that, “it's also great to see employees talking about health issues in the break room." The administrator added, “The program has raised awareness of a good, healthy lifestyle for our employees and their families."
The wellness program entailed the appointment of an 8 member committee to tackle health issues that plague the city workers. Included in the initiative are:
- Regular blood pressure monitoring
- Various activities involving walking and running
- Weight loss and maintenance challenges
- Comprehensive evaluations of individual worker health behaviors and risks
- Distributed newsletter on health related topics
- Establishment of committee training facilities
- Enhancement of managerial support
- Focus on fostering worker involvement
Medpage Today reports that on average, for every $1 a business spends on corporate wellness programs, it saves approximately $3 in absenteeism and heath expenses.
Adding to the advantages of corporate wellness programs, the Post Bulletin reports that the programs foster a sense of being cared for and valued within the worker. This appreciation is enhanced if the initiative includes features such as local health club or gym membership discounts by generating a greater sense of work related responsibility and enhanced employee loyalty. This in turn, often leads to decreased spending on turnovers and recruiting expenses. In addition, healthier workers usually lead to higher morale and enhanced performance, thereby boosting productivity.
To provide that added push to those workers who haven’t yet jumped on the wellness program bandwagon, Mercedes Carthenon, preventive medicine expert at Northwestern University notes that having a doctor on board may do the trick.
Talking with the Bulletin, Carthenon explained that even when the programs are in place workers just don’t take advantage of them. “If physicians were to ask their patients whether these opportunities were there at their jobs and encourage them to participate, that could be a very useful strategy."