Could your business benefit from a workplace wellness program?
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
You’ve undoubtedly read the headlines and viewed multiple reports on TV news programs about how our over-stressed lives are making us sick and lowering our productivity. Many employers have responded with wellness programs, but they’re not all created equally. If a program’s focus is on blood pressure monitoring and cholesterol screenings, then it will do little to decrease the number of sick days people take. Study after study bears this out. The better programs offer employees access to a broad spectrum of healthcare services, from massage and chiropractic care to stretching and ergonomic training.
To learn more about the effectiveness of such programs, we sought out local expert Chérie Gallant, founder of Workplace Wellness in Smyrna. This chiropractor and sports medicine specialist customizes on-site workplace wellness programs with techniques that have proven results.
“Several studies have showed that providing on-site access to true wellness programs improves productivity, reduces workplace injury, and cuts down on employee absenteeism for healthcare services,” she says. “For instance, in Michigan, Anheuser-Busch brought in a chiropractor for its employees once a week for one year and in that time, the company’s sick days declined by 22 percent and the accident rate dropped 50 percent.”
Less pain, more productivity
Dr. Gallant explained that by having a chiropractor in the workplace, people have access to treatment for back, neck, and shoulder issues without having to take time in traffic during work hours for care. “They are able to be more productive and [to work with] less pain,” she says. “Additionally, chiropractors and sports science specialists can design at-work stretching programs that provide employees with simple, five- to ten-minute routines that also can improve their well-being.”
Here in Atlanta, Gallant has worked with employers, such as Tellerex Inc., which serves the banking and financial technology arena, to set up monthly, on-site chiropractic care. “Chérie assessed each employee to determine their needs and restrictions, then tailored individual programs for them,” said Tellerex CEO Brian Lechlitner. “She even took time to meet with one employee who was experiencing health issues that prevented this person receiving chiropractic care. Chérie provided alternative recommendations and counseling to help get the issues turned around. We work in a pretty physical environment and Chérie’s services were much appreciated by all.”
Recently, Gallant was featured on two radio podcasts: Pro Business Channel with guest host Rich Casanova and Atlanta Business RadioX, hosted by Lee Kantor and Stone Payton. She shared her insights about how actionable workplace wellness initiatives can positively affect a business’ bottom line by helping reduce workplace injuries, making healthcare more available in the office, and assessing ways to improve an organization’s physical and environmental features for a more conducive setting for productivity.
“If you’ve ever been involved in a workers’ compensation claim, you know that it can be an adversarial situation,” she explained during the podcasts. “The employee may blame the company for the injury or struggle with getting their claim processed and their treatment started. The employer is concerned about taking care of the employee, but the insurance company may have complex procedures that make it difficult to file a claim.
“Most employers have safety policies in place, but that may not be enough,” Gallant told Cobb In Focus. “When we come into an organization, one of our first steps is information gathering, not only with management, but also with employees and by observing physical attributes of the work environment.”
Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace, keeping in mind the capabilities and limitations of the worker. Or as OSHA puts it: fitting a job to a person. According to OSHA, implementing an ergonomic process is effective in reducing the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in high-risk industries as diverse as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation, and warehousing.
Gallant is skilled in ergonomic assessment. She helps companies determine the best types of equipment to provide staff, including desks, chairs, keyboards, and monitors that will reduce repetitive injuries and other MSDs. “Ergonomic training can help prevent such injuries as carpal tunnel syndrome, disc herniations, or back pain,” she says. “When people are trained about how to use the right type of equipment, and then also receive chiropractic care to minimize pain and injuries, they’re more productive and happier at work.”
Healthy employees help make companies healthy and contribute to a positive bottom line, she says. “A recent article in the Pharmacy Times cited a Harvard study finding that 62 percent of all bankruptcies were a direct result of medical debt,” Gallant said. “And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website promotes that preventing disease is the key to improving our health and keeping healthcare costs under control.” That study also found that people who sought regular chiropractic care spent, on average, 85 percent less money on pharmaceuticals, and they had fewer hospitalizations.
Stretch it out
Stretching isn’t just for the gym. If you aren’t stretching before, during, and after work every day, it’s a good idea to start. Pre-shift stretching and warm-up exercises lower the risk of MSDs by reducing fatigue, improving muscular balance and posture, and improving muscle coordination.
Gallant has developed a series of videos that can be used in the workplace to implement stretching programs, low-impact exercises, holistic lifestyle tips, plus book and product reviews that can be viewed in the workplace or at home through a subscription.
“Our mission is to teach companies and their employees how to live and work well for life through powerful, effective, and targeted wellness programs,” she says. “The goal is to create healthier, happier, and more productive employees and to decrease absenteeism and reduce overall healthcare costs in the workplace.
“Each year, companies lose significant money in healthcare costs, workers compensation claims, employee lost time, and high insurance premiums,” Gallant continues. “If we can help employees with their work-life balance and their physical well-being, and employers with less turnover, decreased costs, and a better bottom line, then everyone wins.”
Is your workplace healthy?
According to industry experts, a healthy office environment includes providing employees with access to healthy food options, gym access or other exercise programs, offering alternatives to sitting all day (i.e., standing desks), using calming color schemes and wall paint (sage green is a great choice), and better lighting (cooler, bluish light is good for analytical thinking, while warmer bulbs are better for socializing and interaction).
Gallant says that other factors that may hinder having a healthy workplace include carpeted space or inefficient heating and cooling systems that may be creating unhealthy air. “Carpets tend to hold dirt, allergens, and bacteria,” she says. “More and more offices are ripping out carpet and replacing it with hard-surface flooring, not only because it’s easier to clean, but also because it lasts longer. And having your air-duct system regularly inspected and the filters changed can help as well. So many offices have fixed windows that can’t be opened, so filters need to be changed more frequently for the health of the people who work there.”
The typical corporate wellness programs do not take any of this into consideration, making them costly and ineffective, Gallant said. Alternatively, Workplace Wellness has a viable and cost-effective alternative with unique offerings such as its on-site, in-house chiropractic care.
Workplace Wellness is located at 2430 Herodian Way, Suite 57, in Smyrna. To learn more about the company or to schedule a consultation, call 404.781.9073, or visit the company’s website at www.workwell4life.com.