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Developing a Culture of Wellness

group of people exercising

Long-term, meaningful benefits for individual employees and the company happen when wellness becomes part of the company culture. When management and employees understand the importance of healthy behaviors and support each other in doing them, positive change on the job may have benefits at the job and beyond the job such as healthier employees and employees’ families.

A positive wellness culture in the workplace contributes to the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of workers.  The workplace becomes more productive and positive when employers integrate breaks for rejuvenation. It also helps to establish clear and reasonable roles and responsibilities and shows respect for the time and talents of individuals and their non-work demands.  These steps provide the organization with opportunities to reduce the number of sick days and health-associated costs.

Senior leadership can develop a culture of wellness by including wellness services in the health plan, advocating policies that allow for health management and wellness in the workplace, and providing opportunities on site such as exercise facilities, walking clubs, stress management activities, and healthy eating options.

Find more information at the CDC’s Workplace Health Promotion. Any workplace can become an environment for wellness. Here are a few approaches that can contribute to worksite wellness and the safety of workers with diabetes:

Increase Awareness about Diabetes Risk and Management.

  • Schedule diabetes education workshops.  Local hospital diabetes educators may be willing to lead sessions and lesson plans are available on Diabetes at Work.
  • Post information about diabetes on the company intranet. Timely seasonal diabetes information and resources can be found at the National Diabetes Education Program Web site.
  • Work with company health insurers to be sure that people with diabetes have appropriate resources for self-management, such as glucose monitoring supplies, education about diabetes self-management skills, and nutritional counseling.  Medicare has information that can be used as a model for benefits coverage. Additional information about financial coverage for diabetes supplies can be found from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Talk with your health care plan about offering the National Diabetes Prevention Program as a covered benefit for those employees with prediabetes.

Create a Smoke-Free Environment.

  • Establish a no-smoking policy at the worksite.
  • Recognize employees who have successfully quit smoking.
  • Offer a smoking cessation program as a benefit.

Resources about smoking and tobacco use include:

Support Healthy Weight Reduction and Management.

  • Provide nutrition information for all food served in the company cafeteria.
  • Offer healthy food options that are low in fat, sugar, and salt in cafeterias and vending machines.
  • Provide healthy foods at company events and meetings. Suggest that employee celebrations include food that is low in fat, sugar, and salt for those who want to make healthy choices.

Resources about weight loss and weight management include:

Promote Physical Activity/Active Lifestyle.

  • Highlight management involvement in active lifestyles.
  • Offer gym membership as an employee benefit.
  • Implement the CDC’s StairWELLs to Better Health Initiative.
  • Encourage standing or walking meetings.
  • Provide 5-minute facilitated stretch breaks during long meetings.
  • Schedule work meetings at times that don’t conflict with wellness program activities such as lunch time walking clubs.

Resources are available about physical activity:

Support Healthy Blood Pressure.

  • Use newsletters or other internal communications to highlight employees success stories.
  • Educate managers to help them recognize the signs of stress and emotional challenges in their staff and  themselves.
  • Share stories about people who use positive strategies for handling stress.
  • Expand health plan coverage to include mental health and stress management benefits.

Resources about blood pressure management are available at:

Provide information about heart disease and stroke.

Aids & Tools

Know More

  1. The CDC offers the Healthier Worksite Initiative to help businesses plan and implement worksite wellness.
  2. Learn more about worksite wellness and safety from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
  3. The Centers for Disease Control also has resources within the Total Worker Health Initiative.
  4. There are resources at the Workplace Health Promotion.

Ask More

  1. We have been doing awareness campaigns for years but they don’t seem to have much measurable impact on health. How can we do things differently to make a real difference?
    Start measuring biometric health indicators such as blood pressure, BMI, blood glucose and cholesterol.  Help employees understand what their numbers mean and how to manage their values. Use the first measures as a benchmark and re-check periodically to assess changes.
    Measure key productivity indicators like presenteeism and absenteeism as well as trends in Health Risk Appraisals and worker’s compensation claims. 
    Focus on the ten most prominent diseases found among your employees.  You can get this list from your health plan. Target these diseases with prevention and management initiatives.    
    Develop within your company a culture of health led by senior management who are the champions of change.  Recognize and celebrate changes to healthy behaviors and systems.
  2. The bottom line and income production are so important in my company. Unhealthy behaviors are often rewarded and healthy behaviors discouraged. How can I begin to change this culture?
    Help senior management understand that wellness and healthy behaviors are a strategic investment. Changing to a healthy culture is the best way to sustain healthy behavior change and decrease health care expenditures which directly affect the bottom line.
  3. How can my company encourage healthy lifestyles without seeming to discriminate or violate privacy?
    Do programs that target the whole population where everyone can be reached where they are in terms of health and willingness to change behaviors.  Strive to empower employees to adopt behaviors that prevent chronic disease.

Do More

  1. Engage top management in your healthy lifestyle efforts as an ambassador for change.
  2. Get supervisors on board and make a plan for all supervisors to support one healthy habit for themselves and their employees.
  3. Include activities in your worksite wellness program that address overweight and obesity issues. Resources can be found at CDC Overweight and Obesity website.
  4. Smoking is a leading cause of death and major contributor to poor health and increased health care costs. Include a tobacco cessation program in your worksite wellness offerings. Resources can be found at the CDC.
  5. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America today. Incorporate efforts that lower the risk of heart disease in your wellness program. Resources are available at the Million Hearts Campaign website.