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Employer-sponsored workplace health programs: Do them right

Most US employers want to improve the health and productivity of their employees, according to a recent survey. And yet, almost half of employees are not participating in workplace health and wellness programs.

When companies run successful programs, employees and employers share the benefits, including lower rates of tobacco use, lower rates of diabetes and hypertension, and lower annual costs in sick days and medical care spending.

Successful programs share particular characteristics, a study shows. These include a focus on improving the lives of employees, creating supportive physical environments, and using technology.

Chesapeake Energy reported recently that 73 percent of its employees had completed a health check for a common health issue. This is remarkable, when you consider the low nationwide participation rate in such programs. Chesapeake does more for health check participants than provide financial rewards. It meets the needs of its employees with a network of health-related services. These include a health clinic with a dental office and a fitness center where employees can swim in an Olympic-sized pool, scale a rock climbing wall, and work out with personal trainers.

Facebook altered its physical environment to promote bike use. At its headquarters, the company stepped up its support of bike commuters by building showers, lockers, and bike parking. In addition, it started a bike-sharing program that promotes exercise on its campus.

Technology facilitates fitness at HealthFitness, a company that designs and runs fitness centers. Employees use an internal social network to sign up for exercise groups and learn about company programs, which include challenges for activity and nutrition, health coaching, and screenings. In addition, they can observe their progress using online trackers.

Employers who want to achieve better employee health can follow these examples, and they can design a healthy workplace by contacting us.