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Friday, May 24, 2024

Health Care Reform

Unhealthy employees hurt a business’s bottom line, and Julie Girten hears about it daily. As the executive director of Tri-State Business Group on Health, Girten helps dozens of employers with wellness programs. Owners want healthier employees because smokers and sedentary desk jockeys are more likely to be high-cost workers requiring more health care for chronic diseases. Their sick days mean more absenteeism and less productivity. Here, Girten offers advice for starting health promotion programs to get employees healthier — and more productive.

Start small.
In the land of Super Size Me, bigger may be better, but that’s the attitude that got America into this mess. Plus, employees with busy workloads are less adept to accept new initiatives. Try for small goals, says Girten. One easy way: Invest in pedometers. Then, add a sense of accomplishment. Divide employees into teams and declare, “We’re walking to California!” says Girten. Each team adds up their mileage, and the first group who reaches the same distance as here to California (nearly 1,800 miles) wins. What do they win? Pride and a healthier body are two accolades, but you could award a more tangible prize: a free lunch, iPad, or gift card to a sporting goods store.

Lead by example.
Don’t think your employees will go for games? “You can’t force them,” says Girten. “They have to come to that point on their own.” But you’re the boss, so be enthusiastic about healthy initiatives and participate. Why should employees care about their health if you don’t care about yours? Make time for it, and they will too.

Or, stick with subtlety.
Not every method has to be a watered-down Biggest Loser competition. In the vending machines, stock healthy foods that come in single serving containers: fruits, nuts, and organic milk. If a lunch meeting is on the company’s dime, think healthy options.

Step it up.
If your employees are accepting the initiatives, expand your reach, not your waistline. Weight Watchers, the national organization with a local chapter, comes on site (for a small fee) and works with employees.

Watch for the return on investment.
Without health promotion programs, a company’s insurance costs continually will rise, but with initiatives, that insurance reduction takes time. “It’s not immediate,” says Girten. “It can take five to six years to see good, solid results.”

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