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Successful workplace health and wellness programs need support from the top

REPOST ARTICLE SOURCE: 

http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/blog/2012/09/successful-workplace-health-and.html?page=all

In order to have successful health and wellness programs in the workplace, Hawaii business leaders need to create a culture that supports them.Creating a healthy workplace needs to start with support from the top, with employee buy-in at all levels of the organization, a panel of experts said at PBN’s health and wellness breakfast seminar at the Sheraton Waikiki Thursday before PBN’s Healthiest Employers luncheon.

Doing so, they said, leads to healthier employees and a healthier company that can make a difference to the bottom line.

“If you have healthy employees, you’re going to have healthy companies,” said Dr.John Aoki, chief medical officer for Hawaii-Western Management Group Inc., the third-party administrator for the Hawaii Medical Assurance Association.

The panel agreed that while C-level executives may not all represent the picture of good health, they can help to promote a healthy workplace by supporting the programs and employee efforts.

“We need to have them buy into the program and concept of wellness,” Aoki said. “It also implies that if leadership is involved, it must be an important thing.”

Howard Lee, president and CEO of the University Health Alliance, said the health insurance company surveyed employer groups and asked what the simple barriers were for instituting a workplace wellness program.

“They said it is a barrier if the top doesn’t support it,” he said.

Creating a health and wellness program doesn’t have to be expensive, either.

“There’s always challenges with resources, so I think you have to be very creative in what you can do,” said Lee, who suggested employers do something as simple as placing blood pressure monitors in the lunchroom, or place signs that suggest taking the stairs.

Experts say most companies don’t measure the return on investment of their health and wellness programs in the workplace, and most small businesses don’t have time to go through the numbers. Instead, they look at it as an investment in happy and healthy employees.

Lee said that as long as the company is doing well and the employees are happy, it will make a difference to the bottom line.

Additionally, healthy employees cost a business, and health insurers, less over the long run. “It’s less expensive maintaining a healthy employee than waiting for treating a sick one,” Aoki said.

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