Establishing your own wellness program

Establishing a wellness program at your company doesn’t need to be a difficult task. Taking the right steps can mean success for your wellness program.
Martha Stricker, nurse manager with Scotts Bluff County Health, and Terri Allen, wellness consultant with Scotts Bluff County Health, offer advice for getting wellness initiatives started at your workplace.

  • Make the case to your administration for a wellness program.
    “Ask for buy-in on the senior level,” Stricker said. “If you don’t have that senior level backing, you aren’t going to be successful.”
    To get that buy-in, make a case for the benefits to the business. Will the program help reduce insurance costs? Will the program help reduce absenteeism and improve productivity? Are their specific goals or needs that your company can work on, such as establishing an injury prevention program? If you need help with materials, the Wellness Council of America offers materials on its website, www.welcoa.org.
  • Gather data and individualize your wellness program.
    “The little hit and miss programs are great, but try to build an all–encompassing program,” Stricker said.
    She encourages businesses to reach out to its administration, employees and others to gather information on the needs and wants of a wellness program.
    “Wellness doesn’t just have to be about urging people to lose weight and get fit,” Allen said. “Wellness can encompass a variety of different things, like forming polices to help employees like  establishing breastfeeding, family leave, seat belt use and drug use policies.”
    With input from employees, you can also individualize the plan. Gathering data establishes demographics that can help you tailor your program.
    “There is no need to offer free mammograms when you have a business that is mostly made up of 50-year-old males,” she said.
  • Form a committee.
    Stricker urges businesses to form a wellness committee. Committees can keep the events going, such as hosting a health fair where people can get screenings.
    They can also help encourage people to participate. At the City of Gering, Human Resources Director Carrie Havranek said, the committee is made up of one person from each department. She said the involvement helps to offer programs that will appeal to everyone, and she has an advocate for activities right in the department.
    Committee members can also serve as the cheerleader of the program.
  • Think of your wellness program as an investment – in your employees.
    “There is no better investment than your employees,” Allen said. “Most of us spend the majority of our days at work, spending more time there than we do at home. Everything is always going at such a fast pace that we forget to stop and take care of ourselves.”
    Wellness programs can help serve as that reminder, through regular activities, reminder newsletters and other work. Employees also notice the effort, the two women said.
     “We all want to know our employers care about us on a personal level,” Stricker said. “For younger generations, wellness programs are becoming more important. Wellness programs are becoming retention tools for keeping employees and for getting new employees.”
  • Take advantage of worksite wellness efforts near you.
    Scotts Bluff County Public Health and Regional West Community Health have been partnering to offer worksite wellness programs for about ten years after receiving grant funds made available through tobacco settlement dollars. Help is available to businesses to implement their own programs.  Over 100 businesses, small and large, participate in worksite wellness programs and 25 businesses participate regularly in monthly meetings that Allen hosts to provide a support network for programs.

Panhandle employers are also now able to take advantage of the newly formed Panhandle Worksite Wellness Council. The council launched this week, and will be coordinated by Jessica Davis, with the Panhandle Public Health District, and Stricker. The program will be able to provide technical assistance and guidance to businesses in the 11 counties of the Panhandle.
Stricker said that employers would be able to receive one-on-one contact, mentoring, information on programs locally.
“We are trying to bring the (state) wellness council to them,” she said. “It’s a way for Panhandle businesses to be more active without the expense of traveling to Grand Island or farther.”
Workshops, annual trainings and other sessions will be available, Stricker said.
A panel on worksite wellness is also slated among the events at the Live Well Nebraska Tour event in Scottsbluff on Aug. 12, starting at 10:30 a.m. at Monument Mall. The event is sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska.
Participation in the Panhandle coalition will be done by a simple dues structure and information is available online at www.pphd.org/pwcc.  Information is available by calling Davies at 308-487-3600 ext. 101 or Stricker at 308-630-1559.

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