Workplace Wellness

7 Initiatives to Improve Population Health at Your Organization

Written by Kate

In recent years, population health has become an increasing priority for companies. The pandemic has pushed workplace wellness into the spotlight and highlighted the need to take greater care of the health and well-being of staff. As more organizations look to improve population health issues on a broader scale, there has been a marked shift in healthcare from fee-for-service models toward more of a population health framework. This not only benefits employees and their teams, but it also brings in greater revenue for your organization.

Benefits such as health and dental insurance, a lifestyle spending allowance program, gym subsidies and vaccinations can greatly improve the population health of your organization and the quality of life of your employees. Implementing these initiatives can help organizations create a healthy workplace culture and improve the health of the organization as a whole.

To read more on this topic, click on the sections below to jump right to your specific question:

Why is improving population health important?

Population health focuses on improving the long-term health of a group of people, as opposed to treating each individual as an isolated incident. Applying this concept to your organization, improving the overall health of your company would not only benefit your employees’ well-being, but it also contributes to increased job satisfaction and retention. 

When your team is happy and healthy, employees are more productive and less likely to engage in absenteeism. Promoting healthy behaviors can also help reduce healthcare costs in the long run as healthier employees are less likely to seek treatment for chronic illness and diseases

Making the effort to improve population health at your company also demonstrates that you are a business that cares for the well-being of its staff and will offer you a competitive advantage amongst other employers.

What are the benefits of improving population health?

With more chronic diseases than ever before, aging populations, and shrinking resources for healthcare improvement, it’s important to try and improve the wellness of your organization. Some of the ways you can do this include:

Improved health and well-being

Having a healthy workforce is an obvious benefit of a healthy workplace. Since the pandemic, many employees have struggled with managing their mental wellness and have had to alter their work-life balance. According to the non-profit organization Mind Share Partners, 84% of employees reported at least one workplace factor that negatively impacted their mental wellness with 50% claiming to leave their jobs for their mental health in 2021.

Stress can also have a huge effect on a team. Improving wellness at your organization through wellness programs and wellness benefits can decrease stress levels and the risk of illness. 

Greater productivity

Happy and healthy workers tend to be more productive. If you invest in creating a positive company culture, your employees will be motivated to work and will contribute towards the company’s goals. Companies will see the rewards of investing in their staff through the quality of their work. 

Improved company image

An organization’s image improves when employees feel positively about workplace culture. It sends a strong message that a company is serious about taking care of their employees, a factor that job applicants will look for. This will distinguish a company from competitors, and will not only help attract talent, but also more clients.

Increased job satisfaction

When a company puts effort into improving its population health, employees are more likely to feel looked after. They are less likely to suffer burnout and lose interest in their work. Consequently, they are less likely to look for another job, and which will help reduce employee turnover.

Improved employee morale

Having a healthy workplace helps employees to feel safe, heard and comfortable to work freely. When they are snowed under with work with no breaks they can quickly reach burnout and lose morale. A healthy workplace will see motivated and happy employees. 

Lower absenteeism

In general, companies that make employees feel cared for will see lower levels of absenteeism. Unhealthy work environments can be particularly taxing on individuals. Under such conditions, employees might not be able to care for themselves properly and might be at a higher risk of getting sick or deciding not to work.

What are some challenges to population health? 

Improving health is not always simple. Some employees may not be aware of the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle. In instances where they do, they might feel lost as to what steps to take to improve their everyday health.

In addition, their busy lives might not allow them adequate access to health care or the time to make their health a priority. Their cultural background might also influence different attitudes towards health and wellness. In a world where mental health stigma is still strong, they might feel discouraged to take time off of work on the basis of mental health.

For some people, cost may also be a setback to improving their health. Health care costs are often high and they may feel that quality health and wellness programs are a luxury that they are unable to afford. Offering wellness benefits in your company can help to address this challenge and improve access to important health and wellness care. 

What is the greatest threat to population health?

Arguably, the biggest threat to population health is a sedentary, modern lifestyle. Long days spent at a desk or computer can result in obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease. These chronic diseases can be difficult to manage in an organization, but you can bring healthcare improvement by offering access to health care through your company.

Another threat to population health systems is mental health, which is an increasing issue across the world. Depression, anxiety and stress can harm both the mind and the physical body and result in staff having to take time off work. The added stigma around mental health can mean people will not seek help until it’s too late – more than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders. Educating your organization about mental health can help reduce stigma, ease the strain and manage their mental health before it causes serious problems.

How do you achieve population health improvement? 

Achieving population health improvement requires a varied approach taking into account multiple factors. The entire organization will have to assist with helping to improve public health. Some of the ways to do this are:

Health Education

Promoting healthy behavior through health education is the first step to helping your employees make their health a priority. Health promotion programs on quality, healthy food, exercise and mental health will help your employees learn how to look after their health and spot the behaviors that could be holding them back.

Health Care Access

A good healthcare system is key for improving health outcomes. Partnering with healthcare providers and providing good health insurance will ensure your team can access the hospital treatment and healthcare they need. Many people are held back from staying healthy with rising health care costs and giving them access to high quality care, hospitals and medicine they need will hugely increase well being. Patients will also be able to manage their chronic conditions.

Good health insurance can help to reduce health disparities by allowing everyone in your organization the same access to quality health care, hospital treatments, medicine and preventive care they need to help them.

Health screenings and assessments can help to identify any health risks of your staff, including heart disease, hypertension or depression. Identifying any risks early and planning interventions to provide necessary support will help to improve population health in the workplace. 

Wellness Benefits

Implementing quality wellness programs will help improve both the physical and mental fitness of a team. These can include stress management programs, offering healthy foods, mindfulness training and fitness classes.

Healthy Workplace Culture 

Organizations can create a culture of health by building a supportive environment for employees. They can do this by focusing on policies around flexible working, mental health resources and health education. 

What factors affect population health?

Health is influenced by a huge range of factors including your genetic makeup, social circle, access to healthcare and work-life balance:

Work-related stress

A major contributor towards poor health outcomes is stress. It can lead to both mental and physical issues and cause chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, depression and anxiety which will cause long-term problems for your employee and cost the business money.

Work-life balance

The balance between your work and personal life can have a huge impact on your health. Working long hours without enough time to see family and friends and do the things they need to relax can reduce daily activity, add to their stress and impact their mental wellness and result in bad health behaviors. Implementing strategies to ensure your team takes enough breaks, and has adequate holiday allowance is critical for maintaining better health.

Access to healthcare

Everyone requires access to healthcare organizations to receive the support and preventative care they need to stay healthy. Providing adequate health insurance and wellness stipends can make sure your team has access to health care services, hospital appointments and medicine when they need it. 

Occupational hazards

Your physical environment will have a big impact on your health. Being exposed to hazardous chemicals or physical hazards at work will have a significant impact on population health. These hazards can cause injuries or chronic illnesses and result in emergency department visits which will result in more absences and less productivity. 

Social support

Social support both in and out of work is important for anyone in an organization. Supervisors and colleagues can help to reduce stress and have a positive impact on someone’s health. Being part of a community and having a good support system at home can also help increase health and engagement.

Company culture

The company culture of a workplace can have a huge impact on population health. Implement strategies to ensure your workplace promotes a healthy lifestyle and is one where staff feel able to speak up if they have a problem. 

What are the key steps to improving population health? 

Improving population health is a long process that will require many different approaches. There are some general key steps you can take to look after your staff:

Allow workers control over how they do their work

Having little control over how work is done is associated with poor mental health and also higher rates of heart disease. High work demands and low job control will significantly increase the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes. Allowing your employees more autonomy over the work they do and how they do it can be an effective way to improve health. 

Give employees more flexibility

Studies have found that giving workers more control over their work schedules improves their mental health. Varying starting and stopping times can result in physical and mental improvements and increased turnover for the business. A work redesign at a Fortune 500 company granted IT employees more control over when and where they did their work but they still collaborated with their teammates to ensure coordination, which improved their physical and mental wellness in the workplace. 

Stable schedules

Erratic, changing schedules make it difficult for workers to manage their personal lives and family responsibilities. There is a link between those who work erratic hours and those who suffer bad health, poor sleep quality and emotional distress.

Greater schedule stability can benefit both companies and employees. This leads to improved sleep quality and reduced stress among employees with children. 

Allow employees to solve workplace problems

Giving employees the opportunity to participate in solving workplace problems can help to boost their wellness. One example of this was seen in a study of nurse practitioners, doctors and physician assistants, who found that those who were invited to address problems in the workplace had a decreased rate of burnout and an increased rate of job satisfaction. Employees who feel ownership of their work and have opportunities to problem-solve are less likely to want to leave their jobs, which is a key benefit if you are wanting to retain your staff. 

Keep your organization adequately staffed

High work demands like long hours or pressure to work very hard or fast can negatively impact employee health and well being. Many studies find that high demands include higher rates of depression, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. It may seem expensive to recruit more staff to spread out demands, but when staff take time off from burnout or exhaustion it will cost a business much more. 

Support the needs of your team

Many employees are also caregivers and they will benefit from supervisors who are more supportive of the challenges they face. A study in nursing homes found that employees who had managers that were more accommodating of their family needs had fewer risk factors and slept better. Employers also benefited because workers whose managers had training in this reported higher job satisfaction and less interest in leaving their jobs.

Take steps to foster a sense of social belonging among employees

Communities are important and so is creating a work culture where employees can develop supportive relationships. Relationships at work are associated with lower psychological distress, an indicator of poor mental health. When there is a support network available employees will have more people to rely on and will have a better sense of community and belonging.

What are effective goals and initiatives to improve population health at your organization?

It’s important to have goals when it comes to creating a healthier organization. Consider the specific needs of your company and where your employees might need support – whether it’s hazards, physical health or mental health. 

To determine which goals and initiatives would be most effective for your organization it could be helpful to gather input from your employees to assess which area needs the most work. However, here are some key goals you might want to consider: 

Promote physical activity

If most of your employees sit at a desk, you may want to consider implementing strategies to encourage more physical activity. Examples include introducing walking meetings, providing access to gyms and fitness equipment, and subsidizing gym memberships.

Manage chronic diseases

Chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular problems not only decrease quality of life, but can also lead to further health complications. Providing access to a good Chronic Disease Management Program can help prevent further health complications and reduce the risk of costly hospitalizations. 

Increase vaccination rates

Disease control is important in any organization. Prevent the spread of illnesses and encourage your employees to get vaccinated by providing education about the importance of being vaccinated, offering incentives for them to get vaccinated and offering on-site clinics so they can easily be vaccinated at work. 

Improve nutrition

Offering on-site healthy food options can be a great way to make eating healthy easy and improve the nutrition intake of your team. Vending machines, healthy eating programs and nutrition education can all help to make healthy eating easy.

Reduce tobacco use

Tobacco-free policies and smoking cessation programs and resources can help to give people the support they need to reduce the amount they smoke.

Improve mental health

Mindfulness training, mental health resources, employee assistance programs and flexible work arrangements can all help to reduce employee stress levels and maintain a healthy workforce.

Closing thoughts

Health and wellness initiatives can help improve the overall health of your employees, reduce healthcare costs, and improve company culture. Healthier employees will be more productive and will be less likely to leave your organization.

To successfully improve population health, it’s important to consider multiple initiatives. Using data and feedback to assess where the organization needs more work can be a great place to start. Health and wellness benefits are a great way to show you are prioritizing the health and well-being of your staff. By placing population health as a priority, your organization can have a meaningful impact on your staff while achieving your business goals.

Corporate Wellness Benefit Managers having a discussion while looking at an electronic tablet.

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