Getting fit: Health and wellness programs in the workplace

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Updated Jun 1, 2020

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Many landscaping companies have employee benefits such as insurance, 401k, paid time off (PTO) and more, but how many have health and wellness programs or incentives?

The question might have come up at your company before, but have you ever stopped to consider what goes into company health and wellness programs and how successful they actually are?Tlc Part One

Several programs are in place to help promote employee health and reduce medical care expenditures, but the overall success of a program comes down to the individual goals of the company and what it hopes to accomplish.

Programs like this are only successful when they are well-designed, organized and have an ample amount of participation from the company. The goal of any company wanting to implement a successful health and wellness program is to encourage employees to choose to live a healthier lifestyle instead of being forced or bribed to.

Before we jump into the positive methods of starting up a successful health and wellness program in your landscaping company, we first need to take a look at some of the most common mistakes that occur when creating and maintaining these programs.

Common mistakes

Risk assessment surveys

One of the first mistakes that can happen when a company implements a health and wellness program is that they only administer health risk assessments.

Typically, these health assessments involve asking employees questions regarding modifiable risks, like poor diet, smoking, high-stress levels and physical inactivity. Most times, these surveys are accompanied by biometric screenings of cholesterol, height, weight, blood pressure and blood glucose levels, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Unfortunately, providing feedback reports that remind your employees that the choices they make are unhealthy doesn’t always motivate them to change. More often than not, people won’t become motivated to change unless they are given the tools and resources to track and change their behavior.

Taking a survey and filling out forms showing a person is unhealthy won’t undo the many years of negative living he/she has done, and for employees who are already healthy and in fair shape, these kinds of surveys seem redundant, unnecessary and costly.

Paying for change

Offering financial incentives are a great thing to offer when your company is able to and they have become very popular over the years, but they may not lead to long-term behavior changes. Sometimes, it can lead to rebellious employees who become irate once the cash stops flowing.

Many traditional incentive programs are set up with the idea that if employees are paid to do so, they will behave a certain rational way, but the HBR says behavioral economics tells us otherwise.

“Sometimes, people do things that are irrational and even counter to their best interests,” the HBR says online. “Individuals may not focus on long-term benefits of a given action when a short-term reward (for example smoking a cigarette, consuming a large pizza or spending hours watching television) is more appealing.”

The HBR says there is some evidence that proves incentives can work in specific instances for a small group of workers, but there is not much research on the use of monetary incentives in losing weight and keeping it off or in achieving long-term lifestyle changes.

Websites and short-term campaigns

Some employers might believe that just because they direct their employees to a website made available by their insurer, that constitutes a wellness program.

Programs like these that are under the radar don’t improve the health of the population unless they are one part of a much broader, comprehensive health promotion program that will offer multiple ways to engage.

Short-term campaigns can also be detrimental to a program, such as pedometer challenges or what the HBR calls Biggest Loser-themed events. These are considered random acts of wellness and don’t prove to be effective in the long run.

The HBR states that these shorter bursts of wellness activities can actually prove more harmful than helpful because they promote quick fixes as opposed to legitimate, long-term progress.

“Fixing” unhealthy employees

Sometimes, employers will hire outsiders to come in and promote health and wellness and then check out from the program. Or, they may even hire different vendors to come in and discuss different issues, like lifestyle coaches, nurse lines, occupational health and safety experts, organizational development consultants, workers’ compensation specialists and more.

“When hired independently, these vendors often work in silos, which can result in overlapping or duplicated work,” the HBR says online. “In addition, relying on outside entities to attend to organizational needs may not get at the root of a systematic problem.”

Check back tomorrow for part two of this article, where we’ll take a look at a few positive and proven methods that can help you create a legitimate and thriving health and wellness program in your company. 

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