Businesses wrestling with health care strategies should focus on employees' total well-being as a way to boost productivity and ultimately improve company bottom lines, a workplace well-being proponent told an audience Thursday in Colorado Springs.

Workplace well-being goes beyond wellness programs designed to promote physical health and prevent illness or disease, Dr. Bruce Sherman, told about 100 people at "Good Health: Businesses Making a Collective Impact," a seminar for medical and health professionals and businesses.

Instead, the concept of well-being embraces a culture in which employers also focus on their workers' mental, emotional and social health, said Sherman, medical director of the Ohio-based nonprofit Employers Health Coalition. In such an environment, employees feel valued, are more motivated to work, make the most of their skills and become more productive, he said.

The concept takes into account financial health, too; employees stressed over financial hardships are potentially less productive, Sherman said.

"There's already evidence in the marketplace now, showing correlations between individual well-being - physical, emotional, social, financial health - with workplace performance," Sherman said. "Think about that as a way to expand upon the fundamental construct of wellness, to incorporate a broader array of programs, services, policies and practices in the workplace to address well-being.".

To successfully embrace the well-being concept, employers should look upon employees as "human capital" that appreciate in value over time, Sherman said. As such, employers should invest in human resource departments - and instead of just managing health care programs and benefits, human resource personnel should be charged with managing a company's "human capital assets" and promoting overall well-being, Sherman said.

Studies show that employers who engage employees in well-being efforts see tangible results in the form of revenue generation, profitability and lower turnover, among other organizational attributes, he said.

Although such practices seem obvious, Sherman said, few employers have embraced the workplace well-being concept. How to get more employers to get on board? Consultants, vendors and industry associations are available for employers to help implement well-being initiatives, he said.

"It is time to change the paradigm and think more about health as a strategic business investment, rather than a cost of doing business," Sherman said.

Thursday's health care seminar was sponsored by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, the Colorado Business Group on Health and Merck Pharmaceuticals.


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