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How to develop a workplace wellness plan. (Health and Safety).

The health of your bottom line is directly related to the health of your employees. Simply put, healthy employees are good for business. These words are appearing with increased frequency in the news and in management literature.

The ideal employee comes to work on time everyday, is loyal, works hard, is knowledgeable and enjoys his/her work. This type of person rarely appears at one's doorstep, but rather is fostered and developed in a healthy workplace.

Of Fortune Magazine's top 100 companies, 67 per cent offer some form of comprehensive (wellness) program. The article "Forget brain drain -- we need healthy employees" appeared in The Globe and Mail on Nov. 9, 2000. A wellness committee in your workplace will help create the type of workplace that supports the work and in turn will improve your bottom line. Wellness programs do not need to be elaborate in order to work. Ask your employees what they need to keep them healthy. The answers may surprise you.

Increasingly this is becoming an employee's market. Workers are becoming harder to find and good workers even more so. To attract and retain those top employees, a wellness program will set your business apart from the others.

As well, a wellness program will demonstrate to your employees that you care. This caring will be rewarded with loyalty. Get started by giving your staff a little bit of time up front. Most work places have a few "idea" people who could help launch this initiative. Assemble a group of volunteers who will lead this cause. This group will be your wellness committee. Since each workplace is unique, this team will have to discuss and decide what form the committee will take and what tasks this committee will take on. Generally, a good starting place is to survey your staff either informally in a small workplace or with a brief written questionnaire asking everyone on staff what the workplace could do to help people be healthy. A baseline of information about current health practices may be helpful, but some employees may be reluctant to share this type of information.

The committee can gather the information and create a report from which a wellness plan can be developed. This workplace wellness plan should be catered to your business and to employee needs. Other workplaces have instituted healthy foods in the cafeteria or vending machines, physical activity programs, walking clubs, programs to help reduce smoking, an EAP program or flex-time accommodations. There is plenty of help online or in your community to help put your plan into action. Try contacting your local health unit for further suggestions.

A launch event for your new plans will make this process a reality for employees. This can be as small as an assembly with a fruit and vegetable tray or a full day retreat. During this event your committee leaders can inform all employees of the great plans that are in place and how to access them. Occasional reminders to employees about the benefits of healthy living will help to sustain your programs.

These new plans should also become part of the policies and procedures of your workplace. Policies should encourage employees to take advantage of the new programs, and procedures will tell people how to access these.. Management can encourage participation by making an effort to take part in these programs as well, and thus demonstrate to employees the company's commitment to health.

As with every new effort in the workplace, build in the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of your new programs and the work of the wellness committee. Keep track of complaints or problems with implementation; these are learning opportunities. Consider doing another survey after a year or two. Newer and better ideas might spring up.

Now watch your bottom line! The initial output for this program will soon translate into increased profits for your company. Remember, healthy employees are
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Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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