How Employers Can Encourage Employees to Improve Their Health

Appeared in:
Smart Business LA County

The evidence has become clear: the more that a company’s work force becomes engaged, healthy and driven, the more likely a business will succeed. According to recent research by The Gallup Organization, engagement of a passionate workforce is a powerful force in catalyzing outside-the-box thinking and creating fresh ideas to improve business processes and customer service. To learn more about activities all employers can do to encourage a healthier work force, Smart Business sat down with Diana Hendel, PharmD, and CEO of Long Beach Medical Center, Community Hospital Long Beach and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. The hospitals are a part of the MemorialCare Health System, one of just 27 businesses located around the world to receive the prestigious Gallup Great Workplace Award, and the only 2012 two-time honoree whose headquarters are in California.

What is the Gallup Great Workplace Award?

Based on something experts call ‘the most rigorous workplace research ever conducted,’ criteria for the award are based upon response rates exceeding 80 percent, engagement levels and impact on employee performance. Then, results are compared across Gallup’s database of 965,000 work teams and about 7.5 million respondents in 177 countries, with strategic plans and best practices evaluated to select those companies that established new global standards for the engagement of employees. Winners span the globe and they represent companies from banks to insurance, retail to manufacturing and health care to hospitality.

Why is having engaged employees important?

Gallup shared with us that there are more than two actively disengaged employees for every engaged employee who is in the work force. The businesses honored by the award have worked hard to shatter and reverse that trend, and averaged nine engaged employees for every worker who was actively disengaged. Those employees from top companies are twice as likely to report that they actively receive recognition for the work that they do well, that their opinions count, that managers encourage them to develop in the workplace, that their co-workers are committed to quality work and that the organization’s mission and purpose make them feel their job is important.

How does this create a great workplace?

Employees who are engaged tend to be more productive, customer-centric, successful and safer. They are 3.5 times more likely than other employees to be thriving in their overall lives, experience better days and have fewer unhealthy days. Research tells us that award-winning companies improve the lives of their employees as they improve numerous other business results, including overall company performance and profitability — regardless of industry, company size or geographic location. Those honored globally, according to Gallup, create environments that value employees and also ensure that each worker has an emotional connection to both the company’s mission and its growth. The positive effects of engagement also help to achieve real business outcomes.

Where do health and wellness fit in?

Having a healthy work force is the foundation for good business, as critical to your bottom line as is the quality of both your products and services. MemorialCare’s Good Life program can help you create a culture of excellence that encourages your employees to make healthier daily choices and improve their overall health. Initiatives include nutritious on-site options for food, exercise classes, trails, weight reduction programs, newsletters and work-life balance programs, plus walking challenges, an activity day, gyms and campuses that are smoke-free. Financial incentives can also be offered to employees in return for their participation in confidential health assessments that can help identify opportunities to improve their health by creating and achieving personal goals. In the last year alone, MemorialCare employees walked 350,000 miles in walking challenges and have achieved a combined total of 4,000 pounds in reduction of weight. We also offer dedicated health coaching to help employees suffering from conditions including diabetes and hypertension make important life changes in an effort to lessen long-term complications and to improve their future medical outcomes.

What outcomes can wellness achieve?

Losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can significantly impact levels of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. For every pound that is lost by someone who is overweight, there is a four-pound reduction in knee-joint stress load. We would be glad to share wellness best practices we have forged in our programs with other businesses with the goal of improving their employees’ health and of lowering the health care expenses of both the company and those of its employees.

How can employers adopt best practices?

Create an employee committee that can plan initiatives with the help of health professionals. Start with simple screenings that ensure your employees are informed of their blood pressure, their weight, fitness level, nutritional habits and cholesterol. Get your work force out and walking during meal times and breaks. Hold sessions that share advice, activities and coaching to reach and maintain goals. Engage employees’ families, as well, to extend health habits to home. Offer executive and employee physicals that can help lead to early detection, preventive care and to better health outcomes. MemorialCare Health System, our hospitals and physician groups can help employers with screenings at low to no cost, with prevention and healthy lifestyle sessions at your company, as well as executive and employee physicals that are both convenient and comprehensive. This website provides a number of online health risk assessments and wellness tips for the journey to better health.

Diana Hendel, PharmD, is CEO of Long Beach Medical Center, Community Center Long Beach and Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach.