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A workplace wellness program is a program which is designed to keep employees healthy, with the goal of cutting overall costs. Such programs reduce absenteeism due to illness and make it much less costly to maintain health insurance plans for employees, in addition to giving employees a better quality of life. Workplace wellness programs can make big or small changes for employees, depending on how the programs are organized and the degree of employee participation.
Usually, a workplace wellness program incorporates a number of elements which allow employees to determine how much they want to be involved. Employees who participate may be given incentives. No one can be forced to participate, and the incentives must be carefully framed to avoid potential accusations of discrimination or coercion; for example, a company may not be able to give employees extra pay for participating, but it may be able to pay a larger share of an employee's health insurance premium.
Annual physicals are usually a cornerstone of a workplace wellness program. The exams are conducted in the workplace, and can include a variety of screening tests which are used to identify signs of emerging disease or concerns like high blood pressure. After completing a screening, employees may be given recommendations which can range from a referral to a physician to deal with a problem noticed in the screening to a suggestion to take stress management classes.
Workplace wellness programs can also include classes and workshops in the workplace, or in a nearby location so that employees can reach it easily. Topics like nutrition, stress, and proper sleep habits might be covered, and employees may also be able to access aerobics, yoga, and other exercise classes. Employees can also be encouraged to exercise independently, as for instance in a workplace where employees are given pedometers and encouraged to walk, or where employees agree to bike to work rather than driving to get some exercise on their way to work. The program may also include alternative health practices such as massage and bodywork, acupuncture, and meditation.
Companies of all sizes can promote employee wellness with a workplace wellness program. While many companies focus on the savings in the form of reduced health care costs and expenses related to absent workers, many of the benefits of healthier workers are less tangible, but equally important. Employees who participate in a workplace wellness program may feel more loyal and committed to the company, in addition to being healthier and subsequently happier.