From the Blog:

6 ways to reduce costs and foster employee happiness

It shouldn’t be a surprise – our work environment directly affects our health and well-being. That’s why many employers focus on simple environmental improvements for their employees. However, for employers to truly lower health costs for their business, they must foster environmental, financial, behavioral and clinical programs designed to improve the health and productivity of individual employees.

To do this well, employers need to create an integrated, employee-centric strategy. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health Plan and WorkPartners created a solid model to follow, the Employer Health and Productivity Roadmap™. Michael D. Parkinson, Sr. Medical Director of Health and Productivity (and strategic advisor to Limeade) recently wrote about the approach in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

To see how your strategies match up, read more about the six main elements that the model emphasizes. We’ve also added a few quick tips from Limeade to help you visualize how this model applies in your workplace.

1. Optimize Environment

In this case, optimizing the environment means more than just addressing traditional safety-related characteristics of a workplace. Rather, to create a truly great work environment, employers must optimize leadership culture, employee responsibilities, communication, wellness programs and more.

Limeade tip: Start with public spaces, like break rooms. Do a quick sweep to determine what snacks employees are grabbing for their midday snack fix and replace vending machine chips, soda and cookies with healthier options like low-fat, low-sugar yogurt, fruit and nuts. Bonus tip: Make all company offices, parking lots and other areas smoke-free zones.

2. Increase Healthy Behaviors

This is pretty straightforward. Healthy employees (those that eat healthy, stay active, don’t smoke, and drink moderately) cost employers less in health expenses. And believe it or not, offering financial incentives to employees to complete healthy activities can actually help to reduce overall costs.

Limeade tip: Create social challenges for employees to use the stairs over the elevator or offer incentives to sign up and train for a local 5K. You should see measurable health, productivity and engagement gains.

3. Minimize Avoidable or Inefficient Acute Care

When employees take time off for avoidable illnesses or inefficient care, this results in unnecessary losses to productivity and high medical costs. Helping to improve these systems will keep employees and employers happy.

Limeade tip: Support your employees’ health by paying (and offering bonuses) for biometric screenings, preventive visits and vaccinations. These screenings give employers key insights to help shape the direction of a wellness program, reduce ER visits, and alert employees to real risks.

4. Optimize Chronic Care

Chronic diseases – such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and depression to name a few – can be costly. But it’s been shown that if patients get more involved in their own health care decisions, they can see lower costs and better outcomes. To foster this involvement, employers can incorporate financial incentives for chronic disease management into their wellness program.

Limeade tip: Treat chronic care patients like people. Offer your entire population (including spouses) access to lifestyle coaches and chronic care support, while keeping them engaged in fun, social company challenges.

5. Reduce Excessive Surgery

To reduce excessive surgery and unnecessary costs, employers can maximize behavior change opportunities such as nutrition and physical activity so that surgery is not always the only option.

Limeade tip: Consider rewarding people for choosing high-quality, lower cost providers when they do need surgery or other acute care. “Shared decision making” and “price transparency” solutions fit nicely into wellness strategies.

6. Speed Transitions From Care to Home and Work

To reduce absenteeism, employers need to monitor the leading mental, physical, environmental and medical issues that drive employees away. Use these insights to deliver strategic prevention and engagement strategies through the spectrum of care.

Limeade tip: Do not think of wellness, occupational health, safety, behavioral health and company culture initiatives in silos. They are all pieces in an integrated system. Your technology platforms, communications, coaches and executives need to help employees hear one company voice. It should say: “We care and here is where you can get the personalized help you need.”

To learn more, read the source article here.