Wellness Incentives help battle obesity in the workplace
These days - and especially during the summer months - who isn't thinking about shedding a few pounds to look better in a bathing suit or to get back into those favorite trousers, skirts or suits that have languished in the back of the closet because you've gained a few pounds.
In truth, our battle with weight management has gone well beyond wanting to shrink our dress size or waist line. America is at war with chronic obesity and businesses are beginning to take a long hard look at their troops as health care costs top the charts.
Weight management isn't just a topic for individuals and families anymore. There's a real need for businesses to take an active role in the health of their employees by understanding the impact of a workforce where there is a noticeable trend toward obesity.
There are a myriad of reasons attributed to obesity. Our poor eating habits - that's quantity and quality - plus lack of exercise are culprits. Two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese and the problem leads our public health concerns, for good reason.
Health experts predict as many as 42 percent of Americans may be obese by 2030. Obesity rates have more than doubled among children and adults since the '70s. Why does obesity matter in the workplace? Obesity is responsible for $13 billion a year in health care costs among U.S. companies and as much at $147 billion for the entire nation.
Medical conditions related to obesity include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, liver disease, gallbladder disease, asthma, sleep apnea, arthritis, many types of cancer, chronic back pain and mobility limitations.
Psychological and social consequences are formidable as well. Overweight and obese adults suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorder, work impairment, time away from work and disruption of work. Does this have an impact on health care and workers compensation costs? Absolutely. So much so that it is worth considering a weight management component within your company's wellness plan - or even as a standalone program.
If you utilize employee health surveys you're already on the right track to gauging the need for a weight-management program. You also need to be sure employee privacy is protected and legal and federal regulatory standards and requirements are met.
Decide upon a budget that makes sense for your company. There are no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all programs. Each company is unique and the same holds true for weight management programs. You want the right fit for your company and employees.
Make education a key component of your weight management or wellness plan and maintain visible reminders in the workplace. Self-help materials like you can find on our website (tmdoccmed.com/links) should include core guidelines such as the value of limiting portions and counting carbs, calories and fat content and recommending smaller portions at mealtime.
Encourage good health habits by making nutritious snacks and foods available to employees. Invite speakers to address your workers at a regularly scheduled all-hands meeting or host regular nutrition education classes, aerobic or strength training, training in goal setting and lifestyle skills.
Another popular idea is creating your own company-wide weight-loss contest that offers cash or prizes. Offering rewards at intervals and for the ultimate weight-loss goal can work well. Try offering small prizes to reward workers at intervals where they have lost a portion of their goal weight and/or big prizes for big "losers."
A Florida resort destination offered a luxury vacation for employees who successfully met their goal as part of the company's contest and employees participated.
Partner with local health and fitness centers and spas and other businesses for prizes that can include any number of types of gifts to include membership or a soothing and totaling relaxing massage employees can use during their lunch break.
There's no limit to prize ideas: How about tickets to a nearby theater or discounts at retail stores?
Partnering with your workforce is just as important. Get input from your employees asking for their ideas. Even small prizes can create excitement, motivation and a culture of good health as long as your workers feel they will earn by choosing a healthier lifestyle.
Investing in a plan shows your commitment to your workforce and will go far in confronting a national epidemic that is no longer on the horizon - it is here and now. Taking action with a weight management program that promotes healthy living through planning, education and incentives will build a lean, mean productive machine that will benefit your company for years to come.