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Making the Most of Workplace Wellness Programs

Five ways to improve your well-being in the office


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More people in Colorado and across the country are gaining access to well-being programs that encourage workers and consumers to adopt healthier lifestyles and, ideally, help curb health care costs. According to a recent study, 87% of employers are committed to workplace well-being efforts, and nearly three-quarters (73%) offer a program.

These efforts are already producing results: Among people with access to employer-sponsored well-being programs, 57% said the initiatives had a positive effect on their health, according to the 2019 UnitedHealthcare Wellness Check Up Survey.” Among those, 82% said they were motivated to pay more attention to their health, 63% said they increased physical activity, 59% improved their diet and 30 percent reported improved sleep.

As people seek to improve their health habits heading into summer, here are some tips to help employees become healthier and make the most of their well-being programs: 

Modify Lifestyle Choices

As many as 80% or more of premature chronic conditions  ̶  such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes  ̶  are caused by modifiable lifestyle choices as opposed to being caused by genetic factors, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With that in mind, people should consider ways to make healthier choices throughout the workday, such as starting or participating in walking meetings, using onsite fitness equipment or taking advantage of biometric screenings or opting for a stand-up desk. During breaks, choose healthier snacks such as fruits and vegetables, while go-to lunches can include a sandwich with a lean protein – such as turkey or chicken breast – or a visit to the salad bar.

Earn Available Incentives

Mid-sized and large employers this year will offer an average per-employee well-being incentive of $762, according to a study by the National Business Group on Health. Check with your HR department to determine what well-being incentives might be available to you. For instance, some programs enable people to earn more than $1,000 per-year by meeting certain daily walking goals. Other initiatives provide discounts on gym memberships and premium discounts for meeting various health benchmarks, such as a not using nicotine or normal blood pressure.

Start to Socialize

Recent research shows that meaningful relationships may be crucial for overall health. By incorporating social components into your well-being or fitness routine, you may be more likely to stick with it. The “Wellness Check Up Survey” found that over half (57%) of respondents said they are more likely to participate in a fitness routine if there is a social component, either in-person or virtually. Potential strategies include participating in walking groups, going to group fitness classes or joining recreational leagues such as basketball or tennis.      

Beat Burnout

Most employees (88%) said meditation, or mindfulness, has a positive impact on a person’s overall health, in the same survey. To encourage mindfulness, ask your company to devote office space for relaxation rooms to help employees lower their stress levels, or inquire about adding an online or phone-based mindfulness program.

For a do-it-yourself mindfulness kit to take to work, grab health-related items such as caffeine-free tea, a stress ball or a gratitude journal.      

Make the Most of Medicare

People eligible for Medicare – i.e., Americans 65 and older – can also take advantage of well-being programs and incentives. Medicare Advantage plans may offer rewards for actions that help you stay healthy and active, as well as additional wellness programs not available through Original Medicare. These can include fitness memberships, online brain games, nutritional support, and access to vitamins and over-the-counter health items at no additional cost.

Rebecca Madsen is the chief consumer officer at UnitedHealthcare.

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