Healthy Employees: A Win-Win Proposition

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Photo: Jodi Matsuo

Having an employee wellness program is a testament to how much a company cares for the health of its workers and their families. In my work with Native Hawaiian-serving businesses, I have seen firsthand the benefits of employee wellness programs.

Their success is attributed to built-in peer support and the convenience of having wellness activities onsite. Staff members are more motivated to eat healthier and exercise. They, in turn, motivate their families. Moreover, they feel more valued by their employers because they view it as a demonstration that the company cares about them.

From a business standpoint, an employee who feels valued will tend to be more invested in their company and more productive on the job. This investment in employee health may also translate to reduced health care costs due to illness or disability. Worksite wellness programs are a win-win for all involved.

Before COVID-19 hit our islands, wellness programs were commonly offered onsite and in group settings. Today, many employees are working from home and subject to social distancing guidelines. This, coupled with stress resulting from the pandemic, has fueled unhealthy eating and sedentary habits, making continuity of wellness programs even more important.

What can businesses offer to continue supporting their employees’ health? Or, in the absence of programs, what can workers do to support one-another?

Social support is proven to be one of the best ways to get – and keep – motivated to eat healthier. Consider establishing a virtual platform where co-workers can post recipes and favorite meals, and share their challenges, successes and words of support. This can be as simple as starting a group email or creating an Instagram page devoted for this purpose. Depending on the interests of the group, start a fruit and vegetable, water, or weight challenge, where employees receive incentives when meeting specific goals. Challenges can be between departments or between individual staff members.

For exercise, depending on county guidelines, consider organizing small walking groups across the island. Determine where most employees live, and think about which ones could potentially be group leaders. The best leaders are not necessarily the most fit; they are the ones with positive attitudes and high motivation.

Another option is to offer Zoom exercise classes, led by an experienced fitness instructor within the company or contracted from the outside. For convenience, these classes can be pre-recorded with links sent to employees. For those preferring solo activities, share fitness apps and web links that provide workout plans for different ability levels.

A health program would not be pono without supporting spiritual health. Send inspiring messages or devotionals that foster hope and aloha. Pray for and with your workers. No matter one’s denomination or beliefs, most people appreciate when others pray and send blessings and well wishes their way.

To all the managers and administrators: don’t forget you are role models to your employees! Practice what you promote and get involved in wellness activities. You never know whose life you are impacting.