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The Importance Of Employee Wellness Programs

Today, I welcome Heidi Smith with her guest post on Employee WellnessHeidi is a certified integrative nutrition health coach, certified corporate wellness specialist, certified meeting professional and author.

Employee Wellness --Why Should Employers And Employees Care?
By: Heidi Smith

What does employee wellness mean? 
At its core, employee wellness is a philosophy based on the notion that by investing in a health and wellness program, employers can create a healthier workforce through: 
  • Behavior modification
  • Use of better preventive care
  • Better healthcare choices
  • And healthier lifestyle choices

The next question is, “Why should you care?” Well, by having an employee health and wellness program at your workplace it can help you to:
  • Reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease
  • Lower your medical costs
  • Improve your productivity
  • Have a happier and healthier environment at work

After all, most Americans spend about 8.9 hours per day at work so wouldn’t it be nice if your work environment was supportive of healthier lifestyle choices?

Today, employers are focusing more on employee wellness programs because of the increasing cost of healthcare, the increase in chronic conditions that are preventable and the rise in healthcare consumerism.

Cost drivers to employers are the cost of employee medical costs and the cost of medical insurance.  Did you know that health insurance premiums have increased nearly 200% since 1999?  That increase is staggering and can be devastating to some organizations.

Employee wellness programs can help employers to control direct and indirect costs of employee healthcare by reducing the risk of employees developing preventable diseases and chronic conditions. They will help employees to engage in healthier lifestyles and use recommended preventive care which will keep them healthier and more engaged at work. Wellness programs will also help to identify any risk of potential chronic conditions earlier so there is more opportunity to “nip it in the bud” before it turns into something that will cost the employer time, money and lost productivity.

 The statistics about employee health are powerful: 
  • 13% of employees are at risk for developing diabetes
  •  40% of cancer is preventable
  • 66% of American employees are overweight 
  • 80% of heart disease and stroke are preventable

More than 75% of all healthcare costs to employers are due to preventable chronic illnesses. What is a preventable chronic illness? It is a non-communicable illness that is prolonged in duration that does not resolve spontaneously and is rarely cured completely.  Tobacco use/smoking is the SINGLE MOST PREVENTABLE CAUSE OF DEATH in the USA. 
  • $5.6 billion dollars are spent on heart disease related illnesses in this country every year and at least least 10% of that cost would be eliminated if adults started walking regularly.
  • 70% of the 50 million adults in the US have not controlled their blood pressure.
  • 30% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented with regular screenings.
  • Women between 40-50 years’ old who get a mammogram every 1-2 years can reduce their risk of death from breast cancer by 15%.
  • An even bigger killer than smoking is a sedentary lifestyle! More than 5.3 million people die each year from not moving enough.

The numbers are even higher for women in the workplace than for their male counterparts these days. There are seven major causes of death for women now which include hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Alzheimer’s disease and lung cancer. A large part of these conditions are preventable, again, by controlling lifestyle behaviors and obesity.

For all employees, poor health, unhealthy behaviors, obesity and stressors can lead to reduced productivity and/or individuals leaving the workplace. It is often compounded for women as they are also, most often, caregivers at home as well so the stressors and unhealthy behaviors can be even more exaggerated with that added role.

What can employees to do stay healthy at work?

·        Move more!  Take the stairs, park as far away from the entrance as you can. Do some squats while you are on the phone. Stretch between meetings. Incorporate some easy yoga moves into your day to stretch your muscles or go for a walk during lunch.
·        Standing desks! If your employer will allow this in your setting, get one. The opportunity to get blood flow to your legs during the day is great. Stand on your tippy toes and stretch those calf muscles. Good circulation will help to prevent blood clots or diseases like DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

Eat health foods!  If your employer does not have healthy options in vending machines or the cafeteria, bring your own food to work. Eating a clean diet will make sure you are putting good fuel into your system and will help you to have lasting energy throughout the day.
·        Ask about your wellness program. If you are not already involved in a wellness program through your employer, ask if there is opportunity o create one. Even small businesses can put policies and plans into place that will help their employees to be healthier and happier.

For more information on healthy eating, better lifestyle choices or employee wellness programs, feel free to contact Heidi at the Integrative Wellness Studio at 832-777-6669 or  

Heidi Smith is a certified integrative nutrition health coach, certified corporate wellness specialist, certified meeting professional and author.  You can find her book Milk. Toast. Available now on and at


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