According to Mr Clem, with personal health and fitness, often we know what needs to be done, yet we use a variety of excuses to justify bad behavior: too busy, too tired, it’s inconvenient, etc.
There’s also a perception that our employees’ health is none of our business. But as Mr Galloway pointed out, there are real cost benefits to employees maintaining a healthy lifestyle: 28% in sick leave if sedentary workers get fit, 26% reduction in health costs, and 30% reduction in workers compensation and disability and claims costs. Statistics show that for every dollar spent correctly, the company can get $6 back, he noted.
Many companies already have a wellness program of some type, and approximately 6,500 companies have a fitness facility on site. Often, these wellness programs can work in the short run, but what about the long term?
Mr Galloway proposes implementing a “Wellness at Work” program that includes fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in employees’ annual personal and professional goals. It’s a completely voluntary program, simply because you can’t make your employees eat right and exercise.
“You can give them the knowledge, the equipment, the place, the opportunity and the encouragement. After that, it’s totally up to them,” he said.
These fitness and lifestyle goals must be shared – with immediate supervisors, HR managers, family members or co-workers – because people need the encouragement and support of those around them in order to continue and to succeed, he said.
And perhaps the truly unique aspect of his proposed “Wellness at Work” program is this: Mr Galloway advocates that fitness and healthy living activities are part of an employee’s regular responsibilities and should be completed during normal work hours.
“I know this is a very, very radical idea. But this goes into the idea that, if you spend the dollar right, you’ll get a sixfold return,” he said.
Upon successful completion of the goals, the employee will be compensated “because we want them to do this because we’re going to get a benefit from it.”
Of course, in order for this kind of program to work, the support of top management is crucial, he said. And not only their support, but their participation as well. “We need to champion HSE, and that includes health. … We have to lead by example,” Mr Galloway said.