Yes, There ARE Employer Wellness Initiatives that Bring Immediate Results

Posted on September 20, 2012

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Most of us who are actively engaged in Employee Wellness will affirm the best initiatives call for patient commitment. Outcome Based employee wellness plans offer long term and maximum results, but the gratification is often delayed. However, I was recently introduced to a simple initiative that can bring immediate results.  Better yet, not only can it be immediately effective, but the cost is minimal.

What is lurking on your keyboard?

Each year, absenteeism costs the average business over $1,500 per employee. While cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to absenteeism, many employees call in sick for lesser ailments such as colds, the flu bug and stomach viruses. Employers can, however, be proactive and minimize absences due to these “minor” ailments.

Move Beyond the Flu Shot

By now most employers are aware that encouraging employees to have a flu shot can be a very cost effective preventive measure for guarding against absenteeism and promoting good health for employees. Many employers today offer flu shots at the workplace or will reimburse employees for shots at local clinics—it’s a quick and inexpensive preventive measure. However, getting a flu shot is only one step.

Employers can reap immediate benefit through simple initiatives which educate employees on the importance of guarding against transmitting germs. If you are an “average adult” you touch your face about 16 times an hour, transmitting germs to the surfaces you touch. Now, that may not alarm you, but you are also touching surfaces graced with the germs of your coworkers. Do I have your attention now?

The economy has increased the transmission of germs in the workplace as many organizations have consolidated offices, putting more workers in cramped spaces. For some employers, they now have employees sharing the same workstations at different shifts or on rotating days. The opportunity to pass along germs in these settings is even greater.

Simple Steps

I met KateO at a SHRM-Atlanta event.  KateO recognized me from my photo on LinkedIn and commented on how she had appreciated some of my blog postings on wellness. I was gratified. We talked briefly and agreed to meet to discuss our mutual interest in wellness. We “made good” on our intention and enjoyed a lunch at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Alpharetta, (I ordered grilled fish with red beans and rice).

KateO, short for Kate Okenatez-Mahoney, is a HR Consultant with the Healthy Workplace Project at Kimberly-Clark. The Healthy Workplace Project is “an innovative approach to hand hygiene that helps employees understand, eliminate and prevent the spread of cold and flu germs throughout their offices.” Obviously, Kimberly-Clark is more than willing to sell us the products that aid us in sanitizing our workplaces and keeping our hands clean–literally. Yet, the program makes sense. And for the employer, it makes cents and dollars through reduced absenteeism.

The program focuses on three preventive activities: Washing, Wiping and Sanitizing. By educating employees on where germs are most likely to be transmitted, employees learn how to minimize their transmission of, and contact with, germs. Many of us regularly wash our hands in the restroom and use a towel to open the restroom door. But how many of us stop to think about the germs lurking on our phones, stairway railings, copier, door knobs, elevator buttons, keyboards, conference room tables, furniture and handles on the refrigerator and microwave in the break room? Unlike dust, germs are hidden to the naked eye. Unlike dust, they can keep us from clocking in on Tuesday morning.

Adopting Daily Habits

The goal is not to turn employees into Mr. Monk, but to adopt simple daily habits that limit the frequency of common ailments keeping employees away from work.

After talking with KateO I asked if she could come to our offices and speak to our employees as we prepare to head into the winter months when colds and the flu escalate. I’m sure we will end up purchasing some Kleenex, sanitizing wipes and anti-bacterial soap. Because our firm is small, Kimberly-Clark won’t set any new sales records because of our efforts, but my hunch is that our productivity this winter WILL edge up.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK? What measures can you recommend to prevent the spread of germs? Can you share other wellness initiatives that can bring immediate results? Share your comments below.

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