“Employers recognize that employees are leaving a lot of money on the table,” said Steven Nyce, senior economist at Towers Watson. “The good news is, employers are doubling down on their commitment to build a culture of health and improve the employee experience through technology and personalized communication. They can also be heartened by the progress some employers are making.”
Echoing Nyce’s thoughts, Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Towers Watson says shifting the focus from paying employees to supporting people at the worksite can make a bigger impact and may even cost less in the long run.
“Creating a culture that values health and changes like incorporating walking/standing meetings, providing healthy foods and pushing employees to be physically active in a sedentary role … all of those things at the workplace are probably more important than spending $900, and you’d probably get more return on that,” she says.
In the context of knowledge and information organization, the primary problem is the workplace-centric view of wellness such as expressed here. Wellness encompasses all places were staff members spend their time: at the office, at home and for all too many, the sedentary hours spent each week traveling between the two locations.
There is no magic bullet at the office for encouraging health promoting behaviors to ward off preventable, lifestyle-related chronic conditions that cost organizations billions in health care costs and lost productivity. Having standing meetings and offering healthy snacks are largely symbolic measures.
A better and more holistic approach to is to afford staff members the ability to work — and work out — where they spend most of their time: right in their communities. That can be achieved by better leveraging information and communications technology (ICT) to shift away from the centralized commuter office culture to one that treats staff as adults and allows them to manage where and when they get their work done.
That way, they’ll have more freedom to take charge of their wellness and be freed of the time suck of the daily commute (a big contributor to the lack of regular exercise among office workers) to hit the gym, walk, run, swim, and cycle on their own schedules. If organizations want their members to be more engaged in wellness and adopt health promoting behaviors, they need to give them maximum freedom and support to do so. In doing so, they’ll benefit from reduced office and health care costs, lower turnover and higher staff attraction and retention.
Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email