As health systems continue to navigate the global pandemic and plan for beyond it, the need to focus on employee well-being is more critical than ever. A programmatic approach to wellness gives employees the tools and resources to make better choices, develop healthier lifestyle habits, and deliver enhanced patient care in times of unprecedented stress.
“Health care workers today are entirely immersed in patient care – often at the expense of their own care,” says Stephen Chee, Director of Workplace Wellness at Lifetime Wellness. “Systems that implement an employee wellness program can promote healthier behaviors for employees and, in turn, positively affect the quality of care for patients and health system performance overall.”
Preventing Chronic Conditions
In theory, the health care workplace would be a model for healthy behaviors and appropriate use of care resources. Yet a seminal study found the least healthy employees are health care workers. More than 32 percent of those who work in health care are clinically obese. They are more likely to be diagnosed with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. They are 5 percent more likely to be hospitalized, and spend 9 percent more in health care costs than the general workforce. At the same time, they are less likely to seek preventative screening, one of the best ways to avoid disease and reduce overall health care costs.
“Health care facilities are the ideal places to help detect and prevent chronic diseases through onsite screenings such as mammography and colonoscopy,” Chee says. “Screening is the easy part. The hard part is convincing people to do something once they’ve identified health risks. An effective wellness program communicates why employees should get screened and follows up with action steps.”
Coping With Stress and Compassion Fatigue
The Mayo Clinic found a significant relationship between employee stress levels and poor results in four key areas: physical health, mental health, nutrition habits, and perception of overall health. Employees who reported high stress levels and perceived poor quality of life also reported the lowest use of wellness programs.
“Health care workers need to monitor their stress levels and follow effective strategies to reduce stress and ‘compassion fatigue,’” Chee says. “With the relentless demands of care, front-line caregivers often have unrealistic expectations for themselves – expressed through such thoughts as, ‘Others are working around the clock, so I should, too’ or ‘Taking time for me is selfish.’ It’s so important that they learn how to ‘be kind to their minds,’ practicing helpful self-talk and understanding what they can change and what they cannot.”
The Lifetime Wellness Caregiver Wellness Program teaches coping skills and stress reduction techniques, from meditation to massage therapy. Lifetime Wellness is also helping its partner communities focus on emotional topics for workers who are care fatigued: hope, encouragement, courage, perseverance, and kindness.
Taking a Unified Approach
“An employee wellness program is best delivered as a holistic initiative,” Chee says. “An integrated program should meet the needs of the entire person, addressing the range of issues and lifestyles that affect the body, mind, and spirit.”
The Lifetime Wellness program covers all aspects of employee well-being. Certified fitness trainers engage staff in body-strengthening activities. Massage therapists offer relief from muscle and joint aches. Health coaches provide instruction in proper nutrition and self-care.
To address emotional needs, the program guides employees in techniques for strengthening coping skills and understanding emotional “triggers.” Employee support groups create a comfortable forum for connecting with others and talking through challenges. Lifetime Wellness also offers spiritual support through a prayer line and grief counseling.
Traditionally, employee wellness programs have been gauged by their effectiveness in reducing health care costs, absenteeism, and disability. These benefits are typically measured by looking at health care dollars saved divided by the cost of the program. But according to Chee, benefits go far beyond quantifying dollars saved to qualifying value realized.
“Value springs from improved employee productivity and morale, as well as the ability for health systems to reduce turnover and ultimately, achieve better patient outcomes. Over the next decade, workplace wellness programs will continue to evolve – instilling a culture of health that supports well-being in every aspect of life.”
A Strategic Business Investment
According to Forbes, employee wellness programs can generate ROI for employers as a strategic business investment through:
- Reducing employee turnover: Employers who create a culture of health see 11 percent lower turnover than emploters who did little to prioritize employee well-being.
- Boosting employee engagement: Only 35 percent of U.S. employees are fully engaged in their jobs; employees with high well-being are almost twice as likely to be engaged in and enjoy their work.
- Improving customer service: Employees who are stressed or overworked often deliver poor customer service and can damage their organization’s reputation.
Discover how Lifetime Wellness can help you implement, improve, and/or enhance your employee wellness programs in the new year.