Most of us have heard the riddle, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” In the workplace, there is a similar conundrum: Does workplace stress cause poor health and negatively impact wellness, or does poor health lead to increased workplace stress? The answer to this riddle is likely, “Porque no los dos.” It is probable that workplace stress is both cause-and-effect-related to worker health and wellness. This sets up a dangerous, positive feedback loop that results in a host of negative effects.
We know that poor employee health costs companies billions of dollars a year, but what about their wellness? “Wellness” is the less tangible, more pernicious health factors such as mental health, physical fitness, sleep health and nutrition? Many Americans suffer from workplace stress due to low pay, unrealistic workloads, long work hours, lack of job security and long commutes, among many other issues. Workplace stress leads to high job turnover, absenteeism, work stoppages and strikes.
Fortunately, over the last 20 years, many companies have caught on and have adopted programs to improve worker health and wellness. Currently, around 80% of American employers offer health and wellness programs. They include Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), regular health screening and health improvement planning as well as general health and wellness promotion. Many workplace programs focus on mitigating risk factors for heart and lung disease such as stopping smoking, weight reduction, diabetes management and general physical fitness. Others seek to reduce debilitating workplace issues such as stress, back pain and repetitive stress injuries. Some companies use cash incentives to drive participation.
There are lots of different studies and reports offering contradictory opinions about the effectiveness of employee wellness programs. An often-cited report from almost a decade ago claimed that that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. While a more recent study found that workplace wellness programs were underwhelming and have little impact on employee health, medical diagnoses or measured physical health indicators such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or blood glucose level. But even if there is no clear answer on quantifiable health benefits, there are likely benefits to other areas of the business.
Does Employee Wellness Effect Workplace Safety?
While it may be difficult to conclude that wellness programs deliver healthier and happier workers, it is quite possible that workers are safer as a result. Worker safety is critical to company success as accidents, incidents, injuries and time away from work lower productivity while increasing labor costs, medical expenses and insurance fees. How can an employee wellness program help to improve worker safety?
Increased Employee Engagement – Businesses with engaged employees outperform competitors since engaged employees work harder and care more about customer satisfaction and overall business success. Companies that provide employee wellness programs see more motivated workers with less turnover, less absenteeism and a higher NPS to drive positive company referrals.
Decreased Presenteeism – Wellness and employee assistance programs have been proven to reduce worker presenteeism (on the job, but not fully functioning due to injury, illness or other medical condition). Worker presenteeism and a lack of focus has a negative effect on the health and safety of workers, especially in high-risk and hazardous work environments. Which means that decreasing presenteeism can help to reduce the likelihood of workplace safety incidents.
Reduced Fatigue – Employee wellness programs that foster improved physical health and fitness help reduce worker fatigue and the associated slower reaction times, reduced vigilance and poor decision making. Reduced stress, improved fitness and healthier diet can work to reduce worker fatigue which is a contributing factor in 13% of workplace injuries.
The correlation between employee wellness and workplace safety may be tenuous or hard to quantify, but for many manufacturing leaders, it certainly passes the “sniff test.” Happier and healthier workers are more engaged, more focused and less likely to take short cuts or have mental lapse that create a workplace hazard or incident.
Case Management Connects Worker Wellness with Health and Safety
Software simplifies the management of employee health and safety programs as well as employee wellness programs. It centralizes and streamlines data capture, analysis and reporting so that all stakeholders can track the status and effectiveness of wellness activities for all employees. Intelex delivers many solutions that help you build, manage and improve your employee wellness program to make your workers healthier and safer. For example:
- Occupational Health software helps your organization to streamline the management of all workplace health-related activities.
- Claims Management software simplifies claim lifecycle from initial incident to final resolution.
- Exposure Tracker software captures and tracks potential and confirmed exposures across your entire organization.
- Incident Management software captures, track, investigate, analyze and report on all incidents and near-misses that can affect an employee’s health and wellness.
Case Management software integrates these applications to build a comprehensive employee wellness solution. The software helps you keep your workers healthy, happy and safe by accounting for and trending occupational and nonoccupational injuries, tracking work restrictions, recording medical visits, monitoring time away from work and complying with all applicable work regulations. Learn more about how Intelex Case Management software supports your organization’s employee wellness strategy while helping to keep your workers safer.