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    Why Workplace Wellness Programs are Key to Improving Population Health

    By Meg Adelman, RN, BSN, MPH, Navitas Organics Wellness Director | February 13, 2018

    Why Workplace Wellness Programs are Key to Improving Population HealthMeg Adelman, RN, BSN, MPH, Navitas Organics Wellness Director

    It’s no secret that chronic disease poses the biggest threat to population health today, estimated to affect at least 60% of the American workforce. An additional 40% have multiple chronic conditions doubly impacting productivity and increasing demands on healthcare services. The collective health of the nation directly impacts the economy and the ability of humans to be resilient and thrive. Yet, it is well understood that virtually all chronic disease can be prevented through modifiable behavior and self care. Ironically, since 80% of our time is spent working, employers may be in the best position to inspire healthy behaviors. This is especially relevant given that employers have the most to gain (or lose) from the health status of their workforce. To effectively tackle this growing epidemic, we need to implement new strategies to empower people to prioritize health across all sectors of influence.

    Although 70% of large-sized businesses currently offer Workplace Wellness Programs, small to medium-sized businesses have been slow to adopt them beyond what the programs that insurance brokers and healthcare plans offer. This may be because finances are stretched thin or from insubstantial evidence for return on investment based on standard, outdated evaluation measures. Unlike larger corporations, small-sized businesses don’t hold the negotiating power to argue for insurance premium reductions, which is usually accomplished by identifying employee health risk behaviors through a biometric screening – a clinical assessment measuring body mass index (a measure of obesity), blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Once identified, large corporations will dangle a financial carrot in front of employees to improve those parameters without inspiring lasting motivation. On average, the research shows that any immediate change doesn’t last or translate into long-term improvements in employee health. Using this standard measure of evaluation, the true benefits of these Workplace Wellness Programs is not realized.

    Prioritizing Health as a Collective Responsibility
    Yet, the potential for Workplace Wellness Programs to improve population health is quite limitless and the business world stands the most to gain by having healthier employees. The essential component for these programs is that an authentic interest in employee well-being is felt by the employees from the top tiers of the company all the way down. Sustained motivation comes from working for companies that demonstrate true caring about work-life balance in action, not just in theory. Through primary prevention – identifying employees at risk for chronic disease, and secondary prevention – keeping already diagnosed chronic diseases in control, these programs can undeniably augment productivity and engagement. Improved mental health and morale will produce collaborative, functional working relationships that will help to enhance creativity within the organization – all which inarguably boost the bottom line. Companies that have Wellness Programs will also enjoy a competitive advantage in today’s job market where the unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in 17 years. Most importantly, by gaining loyalty and general satisfaction with the job, a comprehensive Wellness Program will achieve its intended goal.

    Small but Mighty
    At Navitas Organics, the desire to live a healthy, positive lifestyle informs everything we do. Our superfoods are designed to support health-conscious individuals seeking the most nutrient-dense foods available to help them live optimally and enhance performance. Just as we aim to promote health of our consumers, our dedicated employees are a top priority, which is why in 2014, we launched the Navitas Organics Workplace Wellness Program. We sought to create a program that aligned with our core values, tackled the most important aspects of risk reduction for chronic disease and meets employees where they are in their journey toward health. Success is determined by participation rates, biannual engagement and well-being surveys (The Navitas 12) modeled after the Gallop poll where questions gauge fulfillment, stress and support within the organization. Since its inception, 70% of employees in 2015 and 85% in 2017 reported that they look forward to coming to work each day. Ninety percent said they maintain health-oriented goals in their life and most workers report they have enough energy to meet the demands of daily responsibilities.

    After four years in development, the Navitas Organics Wellness Program is robust and thriving.

    In our 1,000 square-foot fitness studio, we offer:
    • Yoga three times a week
    • Circuit & strength training classes twice a week
    • Weight training classes three mornings a week
    • Creative movement and core strengthening classes
    • A varied schedule of classes throughout the day: early morning, lunchtime & late afternoon
    • Employees can earn $10 per class to participate!

    On campus healthy food options:
    • Through a customized “Eating for Health” partnership with Byte Foods vending machines, we offer employees a 50% off discount for a variety of fresh, healthy lunch and snack options. The Wellness Program ensures quality of ingredients in vending choices, making sure that foods don’t contain added sugars and other harmful ingredients
    • Fresh produce, dairy-free and plant-based nut milks, and other ingredients to make smoothies incorporating Navitas Organics superfoods
    • A $40 credit per month for Navitas Organics products that employees can take home

    To encourage stress reduction, we offer:
    • Guided meditation two mornings a week
    • Flex-time and managerial support to participate in Wellness activities
    • On-site game room with ping pong, foosball, shuffleboard, darts and cornhole
    • Beach cruisers to pick up lunch or ride to clear the mind
    • Meeting blackout times for employees to schedule a workout, walk or have “free” time to focus on projects requiring extra attention
    • Unlimited Vacation Days*

    *This policy was recently implemented in response to current business trends toward encouraging work-life balance. It also communicates trust that the employee, not management, knows what is best for them. Whether policies like these result in vacation time being used, or overused in some cases, remains to be seen. Moreover, it asserts the value that restorative practices, like days off, are essential to the success of the organization.

    2018 Wellness Initiatives include:
    • Voluntary smoking cessation resources and financial support
    • CPR training
    • Motivational speaking
    • Ongoing education with Lunch ‘n Learn Events

    For a small-sized company, Navitas Organics is proud of the investments made to improve employee health within our organization. The overwhelming benefit to companies who invest in Wellness Programs will become evident over time, especially with proper monitoring and constantly adapting the program to employee’s needs. Besides colleagues that experience the effects of overall improved health of the team, communities and families of employees may also find inspiration to make healthy changes from witnessing the positive results of a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, the potential for improving population health with Workplace Wellness Programs is limitless. If your organization doesn’t already have a program in place, start small by implementing one aspect of wellness at a time – such as offering access to healthy foods on site. In doing so, it will eliminate any doubt that your Workplace Wellness Program is paying off.

    For more information or consulting for Workplace Wellness, email meg@rnhealthstylist.com. 


    Does your workplace have a Wellness Program in place? Tell us in comments!