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Thaddeus Mantaro: Wellness in workplace benefits employees, business owners

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Thaddeus Mantaro, Commentary

According to the American Public Health Association and the Public Health Institute, two-thirds of the U.S. workforce is overweight, one in four employees has heart disease and one in three has high blood pressure. 

Each year, more than $153 billion is lost to absenteeism from employees who have chronic health conditions. Most of these diseases are the result of preventable lifestyle factors caused primarily by poor diet, lack of exercise or smoking.

As a small business owner, you can play a critical role in promoting health and safety for your employees by instituting workplace wellness programs that can significantly reduce sick leave and medical costs. 

Benefits of employee wellness programs include increased productivity, increased retention and employee job satisfaction, decreases in absenteeism and overall reduced health care costs. 

The reduced health care costs include direct costs, such as insurance premiums and worker's compensation claims, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can translate to lower indirect costs if workers miss less work because of illness and are more productive.

Historically, employee well-being programs have offered exercise and physical activity classes as well as nutrition and weight management programs. Over time, employers have increasingly provided a complement of health risk assessments, biometric screenings, online tools, webinars, wellness challenges, health classes, health promotion resources (topic seminars) and even remote wellness coaching. 

Platinum-level programs offer employee assistance program benefits, lunch-and-learns, in-person coaching and nutritional counseling, on-site gyms and memberships, healthy meal options, nap pods, wellness adventures, incentive programs and massage therapy. 

It is clear that these wellness programs benefit employers -- especially those employers that expand beyond traditional physical well-being programming to holistic or multidimensional programming.

Many companies offer at least one wellness program as part of their health benefits. Forward-thinking employers, and those seeking to be the employer of choice, are increasingly considering the value of implementing some form of wellness programming.

Each year since 2012, Virgin Pulse (a part of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group and a technology company that "cultivates good lifestyle habits for employees") and Human Capital Media have conducted a "Business of Healthy Employees" survey on health and well-being programs in the U.S. and globally. 

Well-being for employees is directly linked to engagement — the measure of an employee's active productivity and participation at work. 

In 2017, Virgin Pulse found that among the employers offering wellness programs, the top goal was to become an employer of choice, followed by improving workplace culture and reducing health care costs. 

Employees of these companies felt that well-being programs:

•   Positively affected work culture;

•   Made them feel more energetic and productive;

•   Made them feel like the company cares about them;

•   Made them feel more appreciated; and

•   Made them feel more loyal and engaged to their company.

As a result of its holistic commitment to improving the lives of its students, faculty and staff, Texas Woman's University has invested in its own comprehensive health and well-being program to recruit, develop and retain top talent.

Thaddeus Mantaro is the director of Texas Woman's University's Health and Wellbeing Initiative and can be reached at