LHI Tip of the Week – Wellness in the Workplace

Many of our resolutions for the new year include shedding a few pounds, exercising more, reducing stress and other health related goals. Our friends at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield shared some great information with us about incorporating wellness into a place where many of us spend a large portion of our waking hours – the workplace.

Read the following to learn why and how to make wellness a priority in your working environment.

Iowa, like every other state in the nation, is spending significant dollars on health issues.  Billions of dollars a year go towards managing preventable diseases, and billions more are invested in diets, exercise programs and supplements that are not working to improve our country’s overall health.  Unless the fundamental health and well-being of Iowa’s population improves, healthcare costs will continue to rise, eventually outpacing many families’ ability to afford coverage.

One of the ways to improve the health of Iowans is to implement workplace wellness solutions.  Since we know that working adults spend so much time in their work environment, this is an ideal place to start encouraging healthy choices that will hopefully lead to healthy behaviors in other areas.

Workplace wellness, like all wellness success stories, requires changing patterns of behavior.  Simply setting up a gym in the office isn’t enough. You have to create cultural and behavior change – for both individuals and your organization.

Best practices show four key elements lead to success with wellness: strong leadership, a healthy work environment, one-on-one support and incentives. Most important is leader vision and energy for wellness and their reinforcement of healthy behaviors. With a shared vision, individuals can understand exactly what healthy actions they can take to support achieving wellness goals. Leaders have to articulate why wellness is important and get your culture, systems and people moving in a healthy direction.

Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has led by example in this area.   It Starts With Us is a comprehensive health and productivity campaign launched in January 2011.  Simply stated, It Starts With Us activates Wellmark’s commitment to improving the health of Iowans and South Dakotans by demonstrating that Wellmark employees and family members are leading the way.  By investing in a healthy workplace where employees are encouraged to eat right, move more and be wise consumers of health care, we’re creating a test environment where Wellmark employees are setting examples and inspiring change for other businesses and all Iowans and South Dakotans.

At Wellmark, health and wellness is at the core of what we do and who we are and here are just a few of the ways Wellmark demonstrates that culture of health in the workplace:

  • An onsite fitness center, cafeteria, convenience store and vending machines stocked with healthy options.
  • A tobacco-free workplace.
  • Opportunities for employees to earn rewards for engaging in healthy activities, such as climbing stairs, drinking water, or engaging in educational classes about improving well-being.

Easy solutions everyone can implement include:

  • Encouraging biking or walking to work, or starting a walking, running or biking club.
  • Planning meetings that include only healthy food choices.
  • Starting a book club to encourage discussion about healthy ideas.
  • Taking movement breaks at least once every 60 minutes’

Wellness is not a one-size fits all solution. What works for one business may not work for another, but every workplace benefits from healthier employees.

The good news is, you don’t have to completely reinvent your work environment – just make a commitment to yourself to try a few healthier habits and encourage your workplace to support your efforts. Remember, it’s the little things you do each day that make a difference.


About Iowa Sports Foundation

The Iowa Sports Foundation mission is to provide sports, recreation, health and wellness opportunities for Iowans of all abilities.
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