For many business owners, the end of the year is a time for taking inventory – both literally and figuratively. It is when we gather our receipts, develop our budgets and contemplate the moves that will make our businesses more successful.
We would like to add one more consideration to that list: adding or updating policies that can help make you, your employees and even your customers healthier.
The workplace is an important setting for health protection, health promotion and disease prevention programs. On average, Americans working full-time spend more than one-third of their day, five days per week at the workplace.
While employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and hazard-free workplace, they also have abundant opportunities to promote individual health and foster a healthy work environment for more than 139 million workers in the United States.
The use of effective workplace programs and policies can reduce health risks and improve the quality of life for American workers.
Maintaining a healthier workforce can lower direct costs such as insurance premiums and worker’s compensation claims. It will also positively impact many indirect costs such as absenteeism and worker productivity.
To improve the health of their employees, businesses can create a wellness culture – a working environment where employee health and safety is valued, supported and promoted through workplace health programs, policies, benefits, and environmental supports. The results of this culture change include engaged and empowered employees, an impact on health care costs, and improved worker productivity.
That might sound like a lot to bite off, especially if you are a small business. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. A few small steps can go a long way in developing a healthier workplace.
• Healthy Eating in the Workplace – If your business is like most, you probably have a vending machine full of sugary snacks and doughnuts or cookies on the table at every meeting. Switching those out, or at least making sure a healthier option is available, can be a big first step. Programs such as the Centers for Disease Control’s LEAN Works can offer free, online assistance for developing more programs to assist overweight and obese employees.
• Tobacco-Free Workplaces – If you haven’t already developed a smoke-free policy, now is the time. Creating a tobacco-free campus not only helps your employees through the difficult task of quitting, it can help reduce sick days.
• Breast-feeding Support in the Workplace – The basic needs for breastfeeding support are minimal, but can make a big difference when it comes to employee satisfaction and retention. Establish a space where mothers can go to feed their babies or pump milk. Make sure your policy offers mothers flexible breaks to express milk. Make the effort to educate all staffers on the important role breastfeeding plays in infant health.
If you need help developing a plan for your business, contact Activate Allen County or go to the website at www.activateallencounty.com for tips and sample policies. Activate leaders can help you draft a plan and even point out some local success stories, including the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Health Partners of West Central Ohio, which have recently developed comprehensive health policies.
Health tips courtesy of Activate Allen County will appear in this space every Monday.