Study: Wellness in the Workplace Crucial to Business Success

New research from the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) examines employers' perceptions and attitudes toward employee health and finds they feel that keeping employees healthy is crucial to business success and that it is their duty, as employers, to keep employees safe and well.

The research, released at the AAOHN 2005 Symposium & Expo in Minneapolis during May, was conducted to better gauge executive management's thoughts on issues surrounding their employees' health and wellness. Findings will be showcased as a tool to help the occupational health industry better understand the mindset of corporate decision-makers and the landscape of employee health from the employer perspective.

"Understanding the employer mind-set of employee health is imperative for the occupational health industry to effectively make an impact," said Susan A. Randolph, president of AAOHN. "Through this research, occupational health staff will better understand what currently concerns employers and help their companies effectively address employee health issues. By knowing the executive management team's goals and perspectives, the occupational health staff will ultimately be better equipped to prove their true value and benefit within the workplace."

More than one hundred employers, including human resources executives, medical directors and environmental, health and safety professionals from various industry backgrounds completed detailed one-on-one interviews.

The study revealed that executive management understands the role of an occupational health nurse in the workplace, and 60 percent described occupational health nurses as "invaluable" to the company. For executives, the most common signals that indicate the need to hire an occupational health nurse include: High injury or illness rates, high absenteeism, increases in workers' compensation cases and government mandates and compliance. They said that occupational health nurses serve as gatekeepers for health services, provide treatment and follow-up for job-related injuries, work with employers on compliance with regulatory requirements and support employers' healthcare quality and cost-containment strategies.

Only half of the employers interviewed said they do not know the full cost related to employee health- and disability-related issues. Employers who said they did have information available to assess the true costs of employee health issues tended to be the most active in offering value-focused employee health activities such as employee health and wellness programs.

The top four benefits occupational health nurses bring to the business, according to executives, are:

  • Reduced workers' compensation costs.
  • A better bottom line due to health and safety programs.
  • Reduced absenteeism.
  • A reduced incidence of injuries/fatalities.
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