On a + note

Library wellness plans. #24: 2012

Posted in on a + note by flickfancy on July 23, 2012

Promoting a healthy workplace is a good thing, but it also  strengthens the bottom line in the profit and not-for-profit worlds. In libraryland, a healthy work place means enhanced productivity and, ultimately, empowering staff to provide better customer service.

The promotion of a healthy lifestyle is great and laudable, but in the workplace, it also requires a positive return on investment (ROI) with planned benchmarks and goals to truly make it a necessity. Studies identify an estimated an annual 3% loss in workplace productivity due to employee absenteeism and illness.

Most health insurance companies now offer a reduction in premiums if a corporate wellness plan is in place and actually improving employee health and reducing absenteeism. What is important to know is that library leaders need to prove to the insurance carrier that their wellness plan is effective and actually lowering health care costs. To do this, evaluate wellness plan outcomes to determine the efficiency of your efforts.  Establish a library staff annual health profile that documents sick days off due to illness, major health claims (e.g. employees off more than 10 consecutive working days), recurring illnesses (e.g. carpel tunnel, back injuries, eye strain).This will give you a baseline against which you can measure changes and ultimately pinpoint improvements. If you don’t know where you are as a manager, you can’t target where you want to be in the future!

Dee Edington from the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center suggests that there are five steps to successfully managing a workplace wellness plan.  Dee talks about the need for:

►Senior Leadership – a library board and senior staff who embrace and model the policies that encourage healthy living. You can’t do it from the couch!
►Operations Leadership – library staff who take responsibility for their own health (e.g. the walkers, gardeners, stair climbers) and who actively encourage low-risk workers to stay low-risk. The library also needs an HR Department that takes the lead and keeps the issue of workplace wellness in front of staff on a regular basis.
►Positive Reinforcements – regular recognition of folks who model and encourage a healthy lifestyle (e.g. staff wellness recognition program). At GPL we are currently developing a wellness recognition program to meet this goal.
►Quality Assurance – ongoing evaluation of the wellness program including its outcomes, benchmarks and feedback.

If you library does not have a wellness program, I sincerely encourage you to think about one. Workplace wellness is all about empowering staff to live a healthy lives and encouraging others to do the same. It’s about keeping the healthy folks healthy and helping the high-risk folks take action. The end result: we all win!

P.S. It’s a beautiful summer day here in Guelph, so I think Diefenbaker and I will go for a walk after work.

Kitty Pope                                                                                                   #24 July 2012



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