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Tuesday, 08 February 2011 09:33

Action Creates Motivation

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One way to stay motivated is to constantly remind yourself that a worth-while pay-off lies ahead. If you are serious about your goal, whether it’s a personal goal, a work unit goal or a corporate goal, you will take action. As you gain traction toward your goal and begin to see results, you will become even more motivated. Action creates motivation!

The success of any company, regardless of its size, depends heavily on the productivity and work performance of its human resources. The ability to function and perform at a high level consistently is greatly aided by employee/workplace wellness programs. Workplace wellness programs offered by some employers are a combination of educational, organizational, and environmental activities designed to support behavior conducive to the health of employees in a business and their families. They typically consists of health fairs, health education, medical screenings, health coaching, weight management programs, staff member wellness newsletters, onsite fitness programs and/or facilities, and educational programs designed to change employees' behavior in order to achieve better health and reduce health risks.

While the goal of these programs is to improve employee health, many U.S. employers have turned to them to help alleviate the impact of enormous increases in health insurance premiums experienced over the last decade. Some employers have also begun adjusting the amount paid by their employees for health insurance based on participation in these programs.

Part of the reason for the growth of healthcare costs to employers is the rise in obesity-related illnesses brought about by lack of physical activity. In 2000, the health costs of overweight and obesity were estimated at $117 billion. Each year, obesity contributes to an estimated 112,000 preventable deaths. Being overweight increases yearly per-person health care costs by $125, while obesity increases costs by $395. A survey of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services employees found that approximately 70 cents of every healthcare dollar was spent to treat employees who had one or more chronic conditions, two thirds of which can be attributed to three major lifestyle risk factors: physical inactivity, poor diet, and tobacco use.

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report revealed that at worksites with exercise programs as components of their wellness programs, healthcare costs decreased from 75 to 55 percent, short-term sick leave was lowered from 38 to 32 percent, and productivity increased from 50 to 52 percent. By creating a work environment that supports and encourages a healthy lifestyle, we greatly improve the likelihood that people will change their behavior.

As human resource professionals, the concern becomes more personnel-focused. By supporting and encouraging participation in employee wellness programs, you can directly impact work place morale, work performance, and employee satisfaction and retention, at a minimum.

The following are five reasons that employee wellness programs are vital to a company’s success:

1. Work Place Morale—The effectiveness of a wellness program in terms of the office environment is simple. Employees are healthy, therefore, on the whole, much happier; this equates to maximized performance. They are also aware that the company is taking measures to ensure their health and wellbeing, which breeds loyalty and responsibility.

2. Increased Productivity—The main goal of employee wellness programs is to encourage employees to lead healthier lifestyles. This is affected through education, incentives, and health care directed by the company and the wellness program. It is proven that when an employee is healthy, he or she is more productive. Being healthy increases concentration, energy levels, and output. It also ensures you are able to consistently perform at the desired level.

3. Improved Work Performance—Employee wellness programs cater to all manner of health/lifestyle problems. The aim is to promote healthy lifestyle choices, in order to reduce the amount of medical attention required. Lower medical costs are just the tip of the ice berg. Employees who participate in these programs have noted substantial improvement in work performance.

4. Reduced Absenteeism—The benefit of an employee wellness program is that time taken off for illness, whether a minor infliction, such as a cold or flu, or major, such as heart problems or obesity, will be significantly reduced, if not avoided altogether. There are many small changes in lifestyle that can influence health and wellbeing. An employee wellness programs identifies these, educates, and implements them. Through education, training, and professional health care, absenteeism can be greatly reduced.

5. Increased Company Loyalty—Increased company loyalty is another significant byproduct of employee wellness programs. This is one of those intangible benefits that you really can’t put a price on. Company loyalty means reduced costs in terms of recruitment and turnover. This also makes for a more harmonious working environment.

That said, the ability to improve the overall health of your company truly lies in the hands of your employees. You will have employees who will participate in every program and/or incentive offered, and you will have employees who will ignore every opportunity provided. Do not despair. There are ways to impact all of your employees. The simplest form is environmental exposure. Simply post helpful hints/tips in break rooms and gathering places. Send weekly/daily health tips via email throughout your entire organization. All of these tips and hints should be focused on what the individual can do to improved his or her health and wellbeing—not necessarily tied to a program, class, or incentive. Knowledge is power.

  • Our daily habits and actions impact both long- and short- term health and quality of life. Fitness and nutrition issues are the root of health issues. Making positive choices will greatly improve one’s health and quality of life.
  • The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outlines the types, time, intensity, and frequency requirements of physical activity in order to realize positive health benefits. The physical activity recommendations for most adults are as follows:
  • At a minimum, adults should do two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. Aerobic activity (walking, running, swimming, bike riding, dancing, etc.) should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms).
  • For additional health benefits, adults should work up to 300 minutes (five hours) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide guidance on choosing nutritious foods. They are updated every five years, based on the latest science. The website offers practical information and individualized eating plans based on these guidelines. The guidelines advise choosing certain foods often, as follows:

  • Fruits and Vegetables—Eat five to nine servings (1/2 cup) daily, aiming for a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole Grains—Choose whole grain foods over refined grains. Aim for three servings (one ounce) every day.
  • Fat-Free Milk and Dairy—Select fat-free milk or milk products. Have two to three fat-free milk servings (one cup) every day.
  • Healthy Oils—Choose healthy oils instead of solid fats (saturated and trans fat). Examples include olive, canola, and safflower oils. Use in moderation. Nuts can also count in this group.
  • Lean Protein—Choose lean meat, poultry, or meat equivalents—up to five to six ounces every day. That’s about two servings (three ounces). Include fish regularly.

*These guidelines will be modified once the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, are published in 2011.

It is good to have the guidelines, but sometimes having this detailed information can be an obstacle to success as we try to decipher and unwind the scientific explanations offered. In an even simpler form—and one more easily shared and communicated among the masses—the following are some simple tips and suggestions to help you and your employees make the best choices.

  • Do a variety of activities you enjoy. There is no rule that says you have to go to a gym or buy equipment. Having a variety of exercise options will ensure that you can do something regardless of the weather or time of day.
  • Commit to another person. Being accountable to someone else is often the best motivation. You don’t want to let them down or not show, do you?
  • Make exercise a priority. Make it non-negotiable.
  • Be aware of all the indicators of progress—sleeping better, thinking more clearly, having more energy, and fitting better into your clothes.
  • Reward yourself. Making behavior changes is hard, and rewards motivate. So decide on a goal and a reward and work toward it. Do whatever works for you.
  • Find easy ways to work physical activity into your life.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk briskly whenever you can.
  • Minimize use of your car; walk to destinations within a mile.
  • Do a squat every time you pick something up; using your legs instead of your back.
  • Do calf raises whenever you’re standing still—in a line, at the copier, etc.

Become a smart snacker. Snacks can boost your energy between meals and supply essential vitamins and minerals.

  • Think of snacks as mini-meals.
  • Snack only when you’re hungry.
  • Keep portion control in mind.
  • Plan snacks ahead of time.

All of these have a huge impact on the quality of life. Motivation is not something that just comes to you, it is something deep inside that propels you forward, and it changes from day to day. It is something very precious, and no amount of money in the world can buy it.

When you can draw on your own reservoir of motivation—that thought, goal, feeling, reward, or incentive that gets you making the best choices—you will get to understand what really makes you tick—as an individual, an employee, and an employer. Employee wellness programs can help provide the action steps to create the motivation toward success.