We often shed light on businesses in the private sector. But today, we want to zoom in on the public sector. Specifically, those who work for counties, cities, and similar municipalities to learn why county wellness programs create a better government from the inside out.

5 Ways County Wellness Programs Create A Better Government

Companies are learning more and more about the value of employee wellness. When employees are stressed, unhealthy, and mentally taxed, it often extrapolates burdens they face outside the office, making their work responsibilities overwhelming, often leading to decreased efficiency and presenteeism, and increased absences. Same goes for government organizations.

Related: What Is Workplace Wellness? A Complete Guide

Why County Wellness Programs Create A Better Government

Have you ever contemplated all that goes into managing a city or, better yet, an entire county? Counties manage everything from enforcing state laws and collecting taxes to assessing properties and conducting elections.

  • provide parks and libraries
  • manage sewers and emergency management
  • service highways
  • provide police and fire protection
  • oversee planning and zoning

The decisions and actions or inactions that governments make significantly impact their communities, and keeping the people that run our governments healthy and happy is a smart way to keep those impacts positive.

Keeping the people that run our governments healthy and happy is a smart way to keep those impacts positive.

These are the people teaching our children, caring for us when we’re sick, helping us when we’re in need, and providing services that enrich our lives. If we want a happy and productive community, we need to make sure the people overseeing these responsibilities have the support they need from the counties they serve.

“Healthy employees not only have a better quality of life, they also benefit from having a lower risk of disease, illness, and injury, as well as increased work productivity and a greater likelihood of contributing to their communities.” CDC.com

RELATED: 9 Reasons School Wellness Programs Are a Smart School Strategy

How County Wellness Programs Create a Better Government

Boosts Morale

Encouraging employees to care about their health and providing them access to healthcare will help them feel better. When people feel better, they’re more inclined to connect and positively contribute to their teams, customers, and communities.

If the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that workers want to feel cared about. Keeping a person’s overall wellness at the forefront of an employer’s goals is a great way to confirm their value on an individual level.  Counties need good people in place, and aiming for high employee morale will help public employees want to stick around.

RELATED: 6 Strategies for Successful Wellness with Remote Workers

Increases Productivity

Managing any type of government is complicated and often time-sensitive, making productivity essential (remember that whole essential worker part of the pandemic?), and by providing employees access to services designed to improve all areas of their health can help them perform the important work they do.

The CDC website states that “the net effect is that U.S. employers lose more than $225 billion each year in productivity due to employee health problems.” However, this is based on information dating back to 2003.

county wellness programs increase productivity

A 2018 study from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), a nonprofit health and productivity research organization, found that “US employers paid nearly $880 billion in health care benefits for employees and dependents. However, illness-related lost productivity costs them another $530 billion per year.”

Counties vastly range in size and population, and their offices could have hundreds of workers or only just a few depending on the geographical location. Employee absences cause significant issues in any business. But for the regions managed under limited staffing and funding, a serious health setback of an employee could have significant impact on a community.

For the regions managed under limited staffing and funding, a serious health setback of an employee could have significant impact on a community.

RELATED: How Do Wellness Programs Increase Productivity in the Workplace?

Reduces Health Risks

The best way to combat health problems is to prevent them before they start. Still, not all health risks are preventable, and early intervention is crucial when it comes to diagnosing and managing chronic illnesses.

Providing an accessible array of health resources to employees will give them the tools they need to be proactive about their health, while encouragement and leading by example will demonstrate why good health matters.

Lowers Health Care Costs

In a kind of part two of reducing health risks, the other obvious benefit is lower health care costs. Yearly physicals, dental checkups, and screenings are a fast way for someone to know what areas of their health are hurling toward harm.

The people with access to healthcare and who use it for regular checkups tend to be healthier people in general. One thing many people don’t always remember is that screenings such as eye exams and teeth cleanings can also lead to early prevention.

Did you know? Eye exams are so much more than vision tests. Eyes are a live look into the action of blood vessels and many early signs of diseases appear in them. 
essential eye exams to detect and prevent diseases

Think Twice Before Skipping That Eye Exam

There are actually 22 diseases that show early symptoms in eye exams. Learn more at the American Academy of Ophthalmology

  1. Aneurysm
  2. Brain Tumor
  3. Blood, Tissue, and Skin Cancer
  4. Diabetes
  5. Giant Cell Arteritis
  6. Heart Disease
  7. High Blood Pressure
  8. High Cholesterol
  9. Lupus
  10. Lyme Disease
  11. Medication Toxicities
  12. Multiple Sclerosis
  13. Myasthenia Gravis
  14. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  15. Sarcoidosis
  16. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  17. Sickle Cell Disease
  18. Sjogren’s syndrome
  19. Stroke
  20. Thyroid Disease
  21. Vascular Disease
  22. Vitamin A Deficiency

Better Recruitment and Retention

Like businesses, communities operate best when they place emphasis on recruitment and retention. It’s not just about finding the right person; it’s keeping them around long enough for their talents to make an impact.

Recruiting the right people is a timely and tricky venture. Between determining what the new role encompasses for an accurate job posting, scanning through resumes, interviewing, and then making an offer, recruitment is a job within itself.

When our top candidate accepts, we don’t want to lose them just to have to start the whole process again (and we aren’t even diving into the training part of things). Still, keeping the right people in the right roles takes far more than money.

Research shows more and more that appreciation consistently ranks above pay when it comes to job satisfaction.

While the almighty dollar might be a motivator for a person to accept a job, research shows more and more that appreciation consistently ranks above pay when it comes to job satisfaction. If a person doesn’t feel valued at the place they’ll spend the majority of their time, it won’t be long before they start pursuing other options.

mental health support for employees

County wellness programs create a better government because wellness improves lives. One other bonus is that if people are happy they’ll spread that happiness and more people will want to be a part of that type of atmosphere, in return, helping with future staffing needs.

On the other hand, employees that feel undervalued aren’t likely to promote the same posture. Word of mouth is huge and shouldn’t be dismissed. If we want to attract and keep great employees, we need a culture that supports their well-being.

study by the American Psychological Association found that, in organizations where employees do not view leadership as committed to their well-being, only 17% would recommend the company as a good place to work.

Related: 7 Simple Strategies To Integrate Health And Wellness Programs In The Workplace

What Does An Effective Wellness Program Look Like?

This is such a huge question, but it’s also where county employees can work together to come up with programs designed for the specific needs of the business, helping to make their county wellness program effective.

Provide the Essentials

  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Paid Time Off

Providing these fundamentals to employees is valuable in a multitude of ways because it grants them access to routine care and needs. However, just because people have access to services doesn’t mean they’ll use them.

Get Your Team Involved

Learn what matters to them on both individual and team levels. Different roles come with different challenges so it’s important to implement programs designed around them rather than trying to get them to adapt to something that might be a hindrance rather than an enhancement.

What might be vital for one profession could be somewhat useless for another. When team members are encouraged to collaborate, and are given a voice to express their specific needs and wants (within reason), they’re more likely to buy into not just the program, but the company as a whole.

When team members are encouraged to collaborate, and are given a voice to express their specific needs and wants (within reason), they’re more likely to buy into not just the program, but the company as a whole.

One of the greatest and underutilized tools for wellness is access to mental health programs. While behavioral health has generally been one of the highest-priced wellness program offerings, things on that forefront are evolving and becoming more accessible.

Mental and emotional health are leading the wellness movement for a reason: if people can’t handle their mental and emotional difficulties, the chances of them being able to care for the other areas of their health is highly unlikely.

Behavioral therapy taboos are becoming a thing of the past as the world is understanding their importance, and many people are searching for companies that provide this type of support and other non-traditional benefits.

mental and emotional health leading wellness
"70% of employees surveyed feel employers should provide offerings for mental and emotional health, and 54% would like employers to offer caregiver support, among other kinds of non-traditional benefits."
WebMD

 Related: 10 Tips To Implement Mindfulness In The Workplace 2022

Have Some Fun!

Who says health and wellness have to be all carrot sticks and 10,000 steps? While that approach might work for some people, or even for a period of time for most, those goals are outdated and let’s be honest…a bit boring.

Get creative with your team. Wellness is so much more than trying to lose weight and finally getting toned. Wellness is about feeling good. It’s about connection, movement, and balance.

RELATED: 16 Staff Wellness Activities for Creating a Healthier Workplace

Provide Connection Opportunities

Teams that do activities together not related to their work and requires them to work together is a great way for people see each other is a more personable way other than Orlando from accounting or Annie from HR.

While they’ll still identify their coworkers by their name and department, chances are they’ll also have a better understanding of that person. Instead of seeing Annie from HR, they might start to think, “That’s Annie in HR that’s sometimes a little grumpy but man can she solve a puzzle, and I hope everything is going okay with her dad.”   

When people connect they reveal their humanity and stop becoming another random name and face, creating more opportunities for compassion and consideration among teams.

Creating opportunities for people to get to know their coworkers, as well as their communities, is a primary way that county wellness programs create a better government.

  • Cook together – instead of the run of the mill potluck, attend a cooking class
  • Create together – paint nights or crafts nights are a great way to enhance connection
  • Play together – take a trip to the local outdoor adventure park for some go-carts, air hockey, batting cages and arcade games

RELATED: 18 Corporate Wellness Ideas and Wellness Activities

Provide Movement Opportunities

There is much misconception about the word exercise for those that are inactive. Fitness programs and the unrealistic body examples they promote can make people with movement challenges less likely to participate, not because they don’t want to, but because many activities could result in injuries or feelings of inadequacy.

group walking opportunities

When we frame activities around movement, designed with low impact and realistic goals, we’re more likely to see our less active employees engage with more consistency. This could be as simple as eliminating the term exercise out of rotation and instead focusing on terms like movement and active.

Keeping The Active In Activity

The biggest point is to put people in spaces where they will automatically want to move around.

  • Give them movement minutes in addition to their breaks where they can take a quick walk outside or at least a few minutes away from their workspace.
  • Create team goals designed toward movement such as contests for tracking active minutes.
  • Incentivize quarterly activities such as hiking a local trail or hosting relay days during good weather months, and in the colder months consider snowshoeing or visiting local attractions like museums and galleries.

Related: 13 Fun Workplace Wellness Challenge Ideas Your Employees Will Enjoy

Remember the Importance of Balance

Finally, don’t forget about one of the most important ways county wellness programs create a better government: balance.

The employees that keep our counties running are often tasked with stressful situations, difficult customers, and the stakes are usually high. When people feel their well-being is valued no matter their ranking, they will be better equipped to handle the moments of high stress because they’ll know they’ve got a good support system.

No matter the field of occupation, people need to be able to balance their responsibilities at home versus those in the workplace. There’s a reason people are quitting in a massive exodus and it’s not because they don’t want to work; they just want to be valued.

There’s a reason people are quitting in a massive exodus and it’s not because they don’t want to work; they just want to be valued.

When people are faced with consistent stress each day and aren’t provided opportunities to seek even basic care like physician and dental checkups, their burnout rate exasperates and the ticking time bomb of their departure becomes imminent.

burnout rates increasing without wellness programs

Turnover is particularly hard in the public sector because so many responsibilities lie in each role. Governments only operate as good as the people they have in place, making wellness programs vital for operation efficiency.

What We’ve Covered Today

Prioritizing wellness in the municipalities that run everything from the laws we follow to the water we drink is the key to thriving counties and cities. By making sure wellness programs are in place will keep the services we rely on operational, because the fact is that healthy and happy people tend to show up to work, and better yet, they perform well.

County wellness programs create a better government by:

  • Boosting Morale
  • Increasing Productivity
  • Reducing Health Risks
  • Lowering Health Care Costs
  • Better Recruitment and Retention

What do effective county wellness programs look like?

First, they provide the essentials:

  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Paid Time Off

They get teams involved.

Don’t forget to give team members opportunities to customize wellness programs for their specific needs. It’s okay to start with ideas, but make sure to learn about the resources that matter to them.

They have some fun!

Plan interactive activities like cooking classes or art lessons. These are so effective because they need to be completed within a certain amount of time, teaching teams to work together and learn how to communicate while doing something fun and challenging.

Provide opportunities for teams to get up and move. Movement doesn’t have to mean exercise, it can mean taking a few minutes to breathe outside and reflect. For those with active employees, consider joining a community sports league team, or hiring trainers to come and conduct fun workouts.

Don’t underestimate the value of balance. When people have an imbalance between home and work, stresses continue to build, making their lives harder to manage, which often results in illnesses, absences, and significantly decreased presenteeism.

The WellSteps team has helped thousands of employees improve their health, and we’d love the opportunity to demonstrate to you how we can help you with an employee health program. Schedule a Free Demo and take the first steps toward wellness for your team, your company, and you.

wellsteps free demo and wellness programs

About The Author

Dr. Steve Aldana

Dr. Aldana is the CEO of Wellsteps, a worksite wellness solution that leads the nation in wellness program deployment and engagement. Dr. Aldana authored over 75 scientific papers and 7 books on health risk management, healthy living, and health promotion programs. He has given over 350 keynote speeches across the U.S. on the ability of good nutrition and regular exercise to prevent, arrest, and reverse many chronic diseases.

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