By Myriah Shimatsu
From the Winter 2020 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association
Workplace wellness programs used to be thought of as a nice “extra” for employees. However, the evidence suggests that these programs should be part of any company’s strategic operation. Twenty percent of employees voluntarily left their jobs due to work-life balance or wellbeing in 2018. Three out of four employees could have been retained by employers if they would have taken the proper actions to engage and retain them.1 Office turnover often is a stressor that increases workload for others, slows productivity and puts pressure on morale. While turnover can occur due to several reasons, one of the biggest reasons is simply employee happiness, which goes alongside feeling valued and appreciated.
Appreciating your team encompasses many things but for the purpose of this article it means investing in your employee’s wellness, health, happiness and wellbeing. That investment will increase your staff retention, loyalty and commitment to making your practice thrive. 2020 is the start of a new decade and an ideal time to focus on your workplace culture by implementing a wellness program.
How much will a wellness program really make a difference? Turns out investing in employees’ mental, social and physical health pays off. The company leaders at Johnson & Johnson estimated an overall cost savings of $250 million cumulatively in a single decade. From 2002 to 2008 the return was $2.71 on every dollar spent on the wellness program.2 On average a company will lose $1,685 per employee, per year in absenteeism; $1,301.28 per employee, per year in productivity4; and about $15,000 per worker in turnover.1 U.S. companies can use wellness programs to not only improve employee health but also chip away at enormous healthcare costs that are only increasing with an aging workforce.
In an industry where skeletal or muscular pain is the leading cause of early retirement for dentist, followed closely by cardiovascular disease, a wellness program could have a huge impact on the comfort, quality and longevity of the dentist’s career. It may take time to implement a wellness program that creates lasting change, but it’s pretty easy to get started. Begin by hiring a professional to assess the ergonomics of the dental office. Engage and incorporate exercises and movement throughout the day to improve posture and avoid long-term muscular skeletal injuries. Provide incentives, interactive challenges or programs that encourage staff to get involved and possibly try an area of wellness they are unfamiliar with. It’s also important to incorporate regular body therapy from massage, chiropractic sessions or physical therapy if needed. You can even bring these specialists onsite to accommodate your busy schedule and long hours. The best wellness programs incorporate many areas of wellness to accommodate the needs of the dentist and staff.
A comprehensive well-run wellness program can yield a company a 6:1 return on investment.3 Companies of different industries and sizes have reaped the rewards from implementing an employee wellness program not only from lower healthcare premiums but also increased productivity and greater team morale. Smaller companies, like dental offices, can see the impact of a wellness program sooner due to size and cost savings of keeping the current staff happy and engaged.
6 Essential Pillars for Implementing a Well-run Wellness Program:
- Multilevel Leadership—having your entire leadership team on board with the wellness program is essential for the success of the program. In addition, select the ideal team member to champion and lead the program—this should be someone who is passionate about wellness and a respected member of your team.
- Alignment—a wellness program must be part of the office culture and align with the purpose and aspirations of the dental practice. A commitment to wellness can’t be just a side project; it should be a value of your practice.
- Scope, Relevance and Quality—assessing the staff needs and providing services that are of quality and relevance is the best way to create engagement. Know your audience and what will excite them.
- Accessibility—wellness programs and services must be convenient (onsite), affordable and useful. Make time in your practice schedule that allows staff to take advantage of the program, whether that is a mandatory hour where patients are not scheduled, 10 minutes in every hour dedicated to hydration and stretching, or team yoga or mindfulness before the office opens to patients.
- Partnerships—don’t put the pressure on yourself to start from scratch; this shouldn’t be a solo mission. Outside vendors or contractors in the industry can bring a lot of depth and value to a wellness program.
- Communication—wellness is not just a mission but a message, and how you deliver it makes a huge impact. Be positive, lead your team with enthusiasm and welcome their ideas.
Make wellness a part of your practice in 2020 to have a longer, healthier and happier career in the dental industry.
Myriah Shimatsu is the co-owner of Movement 1st Wellness and has been certified by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) for over 12 years. She holds her bachelor’s degree in adult exercise science with a minor in nutrition. Through onsite wellness programs and training, Myriah has been able to impact people’s health, wellness and lifestyle where they spend most of their day—at the office. Learn more about proper ergonomic set-up or other services by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Manhan, T.F., Nelms, D., Bearden, C.R., Pearce, B. 2019 Retention Report by Work Institute. Retrieved on November 30, 2019: https://info.workinstitute.com/hubfs/2019%20Retention%20Report/Work%20Institute%202019%20Retention%20Report%20final-1.pdf.
- Berry, Mirabito, and Baun. 2010 Harvard Business Review: What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?
- 2018. How to Gauge the Effectiveness of Employee Wellness Programs. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2018/10/how-to-gauge-the-effectiveness-of-employee-wellness-programs.
- Kaiser Permanente. 2015. Retrieved from: https://business.kaiserpermanente.org/insights/the-real-cost-of-absenteeism-and-what-you-can-do-about-it.