Workforce Health and Wellness Innovations

Dr. Joseph Mignogna is the Chief Medical Officer of Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. (CHSi) in Cape Canaveral, FL.

Dr. Joseph Mignogna is the Chief Medical Officer of Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. (CHSi) in Cape Canaveral, FL.

The title of Yvon Chouinard’s memoir “Let My People Go Surfing,” refers to his unique and highly successful philosophy institutionalized at Patagonia, his outdoor products company. With a company culture that is committed to sustainable environmental practices, Patagonia also encourages their employees to take a break and be active, preferably outdoors. Along with Google, New Belgium Brewing Company (Colorado based brewer of the popular Fat Tire Ale) provides bicycles for employee use during the work day. Yet, lunchtime surfing, cycling breaks, and other benefits such as onsite child care is not an option for many businesses.

What these companies and others have discovered is that adopting a company-wide culture focused on a healthy balance of work and life (employee well-being) can have a substantial impact on their workforce and their bottom line. It tells the employees that they care about them. This corporate philosophy increases employee engagement, serves the health challenges of baby boomers, and engages millennials. It cultivates trust, pride in their work, and loyalty. Employee well-being can also build community within the workforce through shared values and experiences. Ignoring it is costly both in the health of our current workforce and in attracting and retaining talented employees.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) identifies the workplace as a critical place for achieving marked improvement in our overall health as a nation. So, what can we do to improve the health and wellness of our workforce? How can we go beyond the bandaids and quick fixes to make substantial and sustainable impact? How can we encourage and support lasting behavioral changes in workforce health?

Change Starts With the Culture

A cultural shift is required for change to occur. In fact, we may be forced to make this shift. Walk around the office and look at your workforce. One out of three workers is a millennial, (Pew Research Center 2015). This represents a significant shift in the workforce that cannot be ignored. But do not dismiss the baby boomers so quickly. By 2020, one in four American workers will be over 55 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). However, over the next decade, the “silver tsunami” of aging baby boomers will leave the workforce and the millennials will present employers with new challenges. Employers must be ready to engage and retain a new generation of workers for whom the company culture is king.

Philosophical change drives this cultural shift. It is all about how we do business. How do our actions demonstrate our corporate philosophy? Beyond typical wellness programs, our policies, how we allocate resources, and how we respond to employees’ requests for time off and flexible schedules are all evidence of corporate philosophy in action. These actions drive our corporate culture. With stress as the leading workplace health issue, we must meet workplace health challenges head on to engage employees, serve their health needs, and promote a healthy balance of work and life to keep our employees well, working, and productive.

The Bad News

Workforce Health and Wellness Challenges

  • Annual cost of lost productivity to U.S. companies from absenteeism is $225 billion, $1,685 per employee. (CDC, 2015) And that’s not considering the cost of “presenteeism.”
  • Work-related stress is the leading workforce health issue and a major occupational risk. (CDC, 2015)
  • Close to 50 percent of Americans have at least one chronic health
    condition; nearly half of this group has multiple chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. (CDC, 2012)

The Good News

Workforce Health and Wellness Opportunities

  • Individuals are seeking ways to improve their health, evidenced by
    the exponential growth of the nutraceutical market (non-prescription supplements) and are expected to reach $38.7 billion by 2020.
  • 70 percent of U.S. employers provide general wellness programs.
    (Forbes, 2015)
  • Every $1 spent on corporate wellness efforts results in a $1.50 ROI,
    increasing to $3.80 when focused on chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. (Forbes, 2015)
  • Companies with exemplary safety, health, and environmental programs (Corporate Health Achievement Award winners) outperformed the S&P by three to five percent (CDC, 2015) and up to 16{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2}. (JOEM, January 2016)
  • C. Everett Koop National Health Award winners from 2000-2014 had stock values appreciate by 325{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2} compared to the market average of 105{099636d13cf70efd8d812c6f6a5a855fb6f8f27f35bea282d2df1d5ae896e2c2}. (JOEM, January 2016)