Worksite Wellness: A Novel Approach to Employee Health

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Many of us spend 40 hours or more each week at our workplace. Not all work environments are created equal, but it is usually difficult to meet our goals of eating healthy and exercising while on the job. Often our offices are filled with candy, donuts, soda, chips, and the never-ending birthday and holiday celebrations with plenty of additional high-fat and high-sugar foods. The average worker eats an additional 1,300 calories per week from these types of food which are often readily available at the office. Both employees and employers should be concerned about the unhealthy habits that are encouraged in the workplace.

Workplace wellness programs are one way to improve employee health and wellness. Most business leaders will tell you their most valuable asset is their people. And savvy employers know that happy, healthy employees demonstrate increased productivity, higher morale and have lower health care costs.

The prevalence of adult obesity is at an all-time high with 30 percent of adults being obese and 35 percent overweight. The obesity epidemic is due to a variety of factors which include increase intake of high-calorie foods, decreased fruit and vegetable consumption, and decreased physical activity. All factors that are very visible at many of our worksites.

Worksite wellness programs can improve the health of employees while also reducing health care costs for employers and improving worker productivity. Maintaining a healthy workforce can lower direct costs, such as insurance premiums and worker compensation claims, and have a positive effect on many indirect costs, such as absenteeism and worker productivity. Participants in worksite wellness programs have 25-30 percent lower medical or absenteeism expenditures than non-participants.

Responding to the need to address employee health, UF/IFAS Extension Clay County partners with local employers to provide wellness programs to their employees. Worksite wellness programs can make it easier for employees to make voluntary behavior changes to improve their health.

Worksite wellness programs help promote a healthy lifestyle for employees, maintain or improve health and wellbeing, and prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease. This is accomplished through raising awareness about the importance of pursuing healthy behaviors and providing programs that encourage these behaviors or slow the progression of chronic disease. These programs include nutrition education, healthy cooking, stress management, blood pressure management, physical activity, tobacco cessation, financial education, and more.

As both employees or employers, we have an opportunity to help change some of the unhealthy habits in our workplaces. If you are interested in more information on how to take some small steps toward creating a healthier worksite contact UF/IFAS Extension Clay County at 904-284-6355 to help you get started.

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