By: Sheryl Smolkin
Read this article at ebn.benefitnews.com
A workplace wellness kit and implementation guide recently launched via the New Brunswick Business Council is a valuable online resource freely available to interested employers nationwide.
The Council has identified wellness as one of four key building blocks to self-sufficiency.
Council Chair Denis Losier says the group “will be using the toolkit in its program to promote healthier and more productive workplaces, and has developed, through JD Irving Ltd., an implementation guide to help New Brunswick businesses of all sizes in introducing and improving workplace wellness programs.”
The initiative stems from a working partnership established in 2007 between the Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick, the College of Psychologists and the New Brunswick Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport.
Four pillars of wellness
The partners focused on the following four pillars when creating this tool:
- Healthy eating.
- Physical activity.
- Tobacco-free living.
- Psychological wellness.
The comprehensive 59-page Wellness at Heart Toolkit defines wellness as “an ongoing process to enhance emotional, mental, physical, social and spiritual well-being that enables people to reach and maintain their personal potential and contribution to their communities.”
Using an easy-to-read format with a variety of tables and checklists, the toolkit contains an explanation of comprehensive workplace wellness programming, a description of various strategies and areas of focus for creating a wellness plan, and suggested steps, activities and tools for implementing the plan.
The business case for wellness
In cases where senior management has been lukewarm to the potential merits of a workplace wellness program, HR and benefits professionals will find the following four-step approach for building an effective business case outlined in the toolkit, particularly useful:
1. Gather background information. Conduct an employee survey to assess employee needs and wants before starting development of the business case. Draw on numerous resources cited in the toolkit illustrating that wellness programs in the workplace improve productivity, enhance job satisfaction, reduce sick leave/absenteeism, reduce job stress, reduce injuries and workers’ compensation claims, and lower turnover.
2. Predict potential cost benefits and savings. Determine the specific issues affecting your organization and their impact. Look for data such as: current health benefit costs; age of your workforce; absenteeism; injury costs, including short-term and long- term disability, and workers’ compensation costs. Also include a measure of the cost of unhealthy behaviours and factor in nonmonetary benefits, like job satisfaction and employee quality of life.
3. Outline program costs and requirements. Outline the general requirements of the program, such as the commitment needed from staff members and management, how information will be communicated throughout the organization and how outcomes will be measured. Costs should also be detailed. Be realistic and include all material costs, time spent away from the desk, any subsidy required by the business, etc.
4. Calculate the predicted return on investment. Do a projected cost/benefit analysis for the organization including anticipated overall results. Estimates show that Canadian corporate wellness programs returned $1.95-$3.75 per employee per dollar spent. Some research has shown a return of up to $8.00 for every $1 invested in health promotion programs. Your organization’s actual return will depend on factors such as the specific issues you want to address with your program, the length of time it will run and the number of participants.
A different mindset
Perhaps the most valuable component of the toolkit is the recognition that a wellness program does not have to be expensive. While an organization with more resources may choose to build an onsite gym and locker room, it is suggested that a smaller organization may choose to encourage active commuting by installing and promoting the use of a bike rack.
In fact, the toolkit notes that some programs can be effective without costing anything. All that is required is a shift in thinking. For example, creating a culture of respect and open communication in a workplace can have a large impact on the psychological wellness of the employees.
“Psychological wellness is as essential to a comprehensive workplace wellness program as good physical health,” says Christophe Surette, president of The College of Psychologists of New Brunswick. “This implies the ability for a person to cope with stress, be motivated, adapt to changes, deal with setbacks and embrace challenges. The benefits are enormous for both the employee and the employer.”
The Workplace Wellness Toolkit and the Workplace Wellness Toolkit Implementation Guide can be found here.
Tips for managers
Management support is critical to the success of a workplace wellness program. To demonstrate their support for a wellness program, managers should:
- Model healthy behaviours by participating in activities.
- Be good listeners and be open to suggestions.
- Work with staff to identify workplace challenges.
- Develop commitment and support for the wellness committee/champion.
- Be flexible to allow employees to fully participate in wellness activities.
- Give serious consideration to financial requests for wellness efforts.
- Examine their managerial styles and practices – do they foster a climate of trust, respect and fairness?
- Other meaningful recognition for achievements at work and outside of the workplace.
SOURCE: N.B. Workplace Wellness Toolkit, 2008.