Promoting Employee Health and Wellness During Heart Month
February is American Heart Month, making it the ideal time of year to reflect on your employees’ health and wellness. Research from the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that over 120 million adults in the U.S. have cardiovascular disease, which is nearly 50% of working-age citizens. Since chronic heart problems like hypertension and coronary artery disease may lead to heart attacks, heart failures and strokes, it’s important to provide your workers with educational resources and programs that can help them manage their conditions.
Developing an effective wellness program involves more than reducing absenteeism and workers’ comp claims, it’s about creating a culture of health in the workplace. Being “heart healthy” requires a daily, ongoing effort and should not be treated as a temporary awareness campaign. Instead, employers should lead by example and incorporate heart-healthy initiatives into their companies’ day-to-day workflow.
To get started, here are 4 strategies for improving employee health and wellness in the workplace:
1. Develop Health-Wellness Programs
The first step to supporting your employees’ long-term health is to integrate cardiovascular disease education and prevention into your existing policies. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 46% of employers have some type of health promotion program. What’s more, an estimated 36% of workplaces do not even have a budget for employee wellness initiatives and resources.
Building a knowledge base of health-related materials allows your employees to access key information on their own time. However, it’s important to find ways to incentivize workers to use the resources at their disposal, either through reward programs or hands-on training events. In terms of specifics, the CDC highlights the following components of comprehensive wellness programs:
- Annual health screenings
- Clear links between health promotion and available programs
- Health and wellness education
- Health program integration at a company level
- Supportive social and physical environments
Since every workplace has different occupational risks, creating personalized wellness initiatives is essential. For more tips on how to build an effective health program, read our post on cost effective wellness programs any business can start.
2. Encourage the Buddy System
While there’s a lot of resources for employers to motivate employees to better manage their heart conditions, creating a team-oriented environment is crucial to any health initiative. Educating employees on ways to spot the early signs of heart attacks and strokes helps them look out for each other while at work. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following symptoms are associated with heart-related issues that may call for immediate medical attention:
- Chest pains, tightness and/or discomfort
- Shortness of breath and dizziness
- Numbness or weakness in the legs or arms
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat or upper abdomen
- Irregular heartbeats that are rapid, pounding or fluttering
In addition to the warning signs, employees should understand the risk factors and lifestyle choices that contribute to heart disease. This sort of awareness is a roadmap to healthier habits and builds productive relationships with coworkers. Whether you opt for a formal or informal buddy system, it’s important to promote teamwork and partnership in the workplace.
3. Provide CPR Training and Awareness
Even the best health and wellness programs can’t 100% ensure an employee will never experience a heart-related issue on the job. And while a tight-knit group of employees may be able to hold one another accountable for unhealthy habits, they should also know how to administer CPR in an emergency. According to the AHA, nearly 350,000 sudden cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital setting each year. Considering CPR can immediately double or triple a person’s chance of survival, employers should prioritize training and awareness as part of their core health programs.
For tips on how to administer CPR in emergency situations, check out this blog post about how staying alive will make you a CPR lifesaver.
4. Combat Employee Stress and Fatigue
Stress, high blood pressure and overexertion are known to aggravate existing heart conditions, which is why employers should take the time to understand each worker’s physical limitations. This is especially important for employees who work long hours or irregular shifts, though work-related stress is common in nearly every industry. Organizations can help combat fatigue by offering employees flexible scheduling and educating workers about the importance of a good night’s rest. Research from the NIH found that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep, which not only impacts their productivity, but also makes them more likely to suffer a heart-related issue at work.
Luckily, there are plenty of strategies employers can use to reduce overexertion and stress, from conducting risk assessments to educating workers about the importance of sleep health. To learn more about this often overlooked health topic, view our blog post on workplace fatigue.
No matter where you are in the journey toward better safety and health programs at work, FFVA Mutual is here to help you identify opportunities for improvement to support your employees’ long-term wellness. If you’re an FFVA Mutual policyholder looking for hands-on training like our first aid, CPR and AED course, complete our safety training request form today!