Employers Seek a Healthy and Happy Workforce

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By Genevieve Douglas

Sept. 15 — When employers take care of their workers’ well-being, they get healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive employees, according to corporate benefits officials.

Healthy employees don’t just mean employees who are not sick, Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said Sept. 15. The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and this holistic approach to employee wellness is starting to take hold as a goal for many organizations, Hymel said.

However, the current economic climate presents a few obstacles, Hymel said. Business spending is flat, hiring is expected to slow and there is uncertainty about the current economic prosperity going forward, she said. Additionally, many companies are struggling to keep stock market prices stable by cutting expenses, which often impacts employees who have to do more with less, she said.

Telemedicine and Other Offerings

To address resulting employee stress, employers are turning to innovative health care delivery systems focused on wellness to encourage workers to live healthy lives and make healthy choices, Hymel said.

For example, employers are investing in on-site clinics and services and telemedicine to ease health care access and optimize delivery channels, according to Erik Sossa, vice president of global benefits and wellness for PepsiCo Inc.

Employers can also leverage employee wellness data to personalize health care delivery through apps. This approach can engage employees in their health in a holistic way, he said Sept. 15.

Addressing Basic Employee Needs

According to Ron Friedman, author of “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace,” the extravagant benefits of Silicon Valley aren’t necessary to create a happy, healthy workforce.

Decades of research show that people have the same basic human psychological needs, Friedman said. Employers should enable workers to achieve competence, gain the opportunity to grow in their jobs, develop connections through relationships with co-workers and have autonomy in how they get their work done, he advised.

“When we’re exposed to new perspectives and new ideas, that’s when we feel growth,” which generates engagement, Friedman said. For example, he recommended something as simple as having an employee read a budget.

Employers can also encourage employees to read industry blogs, attend conferences and find other opportunities for training and skills advancement, he added.

Hymel, Sossa and Friedman spoke at the National Business Group on Health’s conference in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bna.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tony Harris at tharris@bna.com

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