Help Employees Achieve Their Health and Wellness Goals

This is a wonderful time of year for merriment, catching up with family and friends, for recognizing and celebrating all we have, and for remembering those who don’t have as much. But it’s also a period of unhealthy eating and behavior that has both short- and long-term consequences on our health and the health of those working with and for us.

When it comes to an abundance of calorie-rich foods laden with salt, sugar and fats, the holidays are a great enabler. As a nation we already struggle with the fallout, such as diabetes, which afflicts nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States. Another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing type-2 diabetes, with 1.9 million new cases of diabetes diagnosed annually in people aged 20 and older.

And it’s not only the dangers to your health and the health of your loved ones to consider — The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion, including $176 billion for direct medical costs. But the cost is higher than just dollars: complications include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, kidney and nervous system diseases, blindness and an increased risk of amputation of lower limbs from complications including poor circulation and wounds.

Researchers say the side effects of diabetes also represent $69 billion in reduced productivity. And after adjusting for population age and sex differences, average medical expenditures among people with diagnosed diabetes were 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.

So besides urging employees and our ourselves to eat and drink in moderation, what else can be done to mitigate this affliction? For a start, studies by the National Diabetes Research Foundation have determined that just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, and a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in body weight, can reduce the risk of diabetes by almost 60 percent.

Help Employees Help Themselves

This is the ideal time of year to help employees explore their personal wellness regimen and health goals, and set positive behavioral changes in motion for 2019. As employers, we can set the pace for ourselves and our teams through proactive planning, education and outreach.

The challenge is helping people think about planning, then move from planning to action. Leaders help encourage and motivate their workforces. Healthier employees are happier, more motivated and productive. They also require less sick time, and are more attentive to their teammates and customers.

Supplementing the cost of membership in local fitness centers and gyms is a popular option. You also can bring health experts in areas such as nutrition, fitness and stress reduction into your office to talk with employees during the work day. Encouraging and sponsoring activities such as bowling, team workouts and charity drives encourages team-building and improves morale. This is particularly important during the cold winter months when getting outside is inconvenient or uncomfortable.

Spring, thankfully, isn’t that far away, so planning for charity walks, softball, volleyball and related activities can start soon.

Some employers sponsor in-house fitness classes, yoga and health screenings, and offer personal health and fitness coaches. There also are a variety of health and wellness initiatives companies can entertain. Asking employees for their input and participation helps keep people focused and engaged. It can be something as simple as healthy recipe swaps, replacing candy and soda machines with healthier snacks, and sponsoring fitness activities.

Workplace wellness programs have the potential to significantly improve employee health. Here are some tips on initiating coaching or wellness-related incentives:

  • Structure your programs to reward employees for engaging in healthy habits
  • Avoid the use of body mass index (BMI) as a basis for financial penalties or incentives
  • Ensure incentive programs are matched with health plans that cover evidence-based obesity treatment programs and medications
  • Focus programs on overall wellness for all employees, rather than only those affected by obesity or who are overweight
  • Create a supportive workplace environment that provides opportunities for healthy behaviors, such as healthy food options in the lunchroom and vending machines.

Encouraging employees to set their own goals, and to share their goals, is an easy way to get the new year started. Exercise and weight-loss efforts are always easier and more fun when multiple people are participating and helping each other. Measure one another’s progress, reward for reaching milestones, and lead by example – walk the walk, don’t just talk it!


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!