Archived Story

Forstner: Invest in workforce wellness

Published 5:09pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Americans spend a great deal of time at work. Productive time, most would hope. But the productivity of our workforce can often be directly linked to the health and well-being of those employed. Absent employees produce nothing. Replacing them is expensive and time-consuming.

Successful companies know this, and many are now looking toward workforce wellness programs as a way to further improve productivity and better manage rising health care costs. They know quality employees are among their greatest assets, and that they need to invest in their well-being.

With healthcare costs rapidly rising and skilled workers more difficult to find, it only makes sense to invest in improving the health of your existing workforce. And there is research to support that belief. A national Gallup Poll estimated that 450 million days of work are lost each year because of health problems, costing employers $150 billion in lost productivity. Another study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, estimated that every $1 spent in wellness programs provided $4.50 in benefits from reduced healthcare premiums, increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, and lower work-related stress.

Workforce wellness programs are as varied as the companies who initiate them. Generally speaking, they promote greater awareness of lifestyle changes that impact health and happiness, and encourage all employees to make healthier choices.

Effective programs can be as simple as introducing fruit and vegetables in the break room to encourage better eating habits. More extensive programs might include bonuses or credits for weight loss or smoking cessation.

Locally, Workforce Wellness is one of four focus areas for the community-based Mower Refreshed initiative. Our goal is to help create a healthier and more productive workforce by reducing absenteeism, increasing productivity, and better managing health care costs.

Several area businesses have stepped forward to share their own ideas regarding workforce wellness, and those programs are now available for all to see online at Just click on the “Best Practices” link under Workforce Wellness to see what these companies are doing to promote the health and well-being of their employees.

The Workforce Wellness group also has a limited number of Health Risk Assessments for employees to take at home or in the workplace. Taking an HRA is a great way to measure your health risks today, and baseline later as you adopt healthier lifestyles.

For more information contact Sandy Anderson, Mower Refreshed Coordinator, at 507-434-1039 or

—Sandy Forstner is the Executive Director at the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, Mower Refreshed Steering Committee member and co-leader of the Workforce Wellness Goal Group.

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