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Sore back. Aching knees. Splitting headache. Tired feet. Welcome to the litany of physical woes told by workers young and old that you hear daily in the workplace. It competes on the water cooler topic circuit with the weather and the latest head-scratching thing Donald Trump has said. What can be done at your workplace to increase the overall health and wellness?

I have always found it strange that for decades company executives hear about and even listen to the daily tales of aches and pains but yet do nothing about it. Yet these same executives will complain about the high employee absentee cost to the company or health care expenses they as an employer must absorb (if there is a work health plan). Have they ever thought there is a solution beyond firing that employee which in some cases they would like to do?
It’s been a slow trend over the decades but there are more companies now finally recognizing that if they have healthy employees they will more than likely have more engaged and productive employees. Don’t forget to add in the huge savings in health plan costs. Why?
It’s simple really. Healthy employees aren’t taking time off to get prescriptions, going to doctor’s appointments or for more serious conditions taking short and long term sick leave. Many of the illnesses and ailments are preventable. Doesn’t it make more sense to spend a little at the beginning to save a lot in the long run?
Some may view running a travel agency or even being a home based agency as not very stressful.
“What’s stressful? You book people’s holidays.” Some might say.
Well as any agent knows all hell can break loose – just look at the recent Hurricane Matthew and all the flights cancelled, roads closed down, full hotels and customers not knowing what to do – who comes to the rescue – the travel agent! Or at least for the smart consumers who used one.
Now those are incredibly stressful situations and they happen more frequently than not. All that stress can build up. It’s in the agency’s or travel company’s best interest to set up some kind of wellness programme.
Some organizations like the United Way in Toronto decided to set up a wellness committee. They get together to develop programmes for employees for everything from yoga, meditation, work/life balance information sessions, tai chi, and more. But it can be simple things – like providing a list of exercises that someone can do at their desk with an exercise ball or rubber bands.
You find ad agencies, marketing companies, and high tech and video game manufacturers ahead of the curve when it comes to providing an environment where wellness elements are incorporated. Some companies even provide a quiet or nap room where employees can take a quick 15-20 minute nap in silence. I for one would welcome this quick afternoon nap.
There are no figures in Canada but it is estimated in the United States, that 15 largely preventable chronic conditions, which include obesity and diabetes account for 80% of chronic claim costs, which comprise 75% of all healthcare costs. That is a scary number but it is also encouraging. Most of these chronic conditions are preventable so with the right exercise and eating habits that health cost both personally and for the company can go down significantly.
What can a small travel agency do to incorporate more wellness in the workplace?
The first is to discuss it – if the boss simply says you must do this and that then it is guaranteed to fail. Engage and embrace ideas – it’s going to vary from office depending on the fitness and health level of the employees and age group.
Determine what your goals are and what is realistic in the confines of your workspace.
In the workplace developing a wellness plan has its advantages. You all work for the same company and want to achieve the same goals – success for the company usually means success for the employees (or it should be!). So there is already a built-in team philosophy and support network. No one needs to feel alone – you have co-workers to provide support.
Workplace wellness (or corporate wellness) can incorporate a range of activities both physical and mental. Why not organize a health education fair, free medical screenings, weight loss and stress management advice, stop smoking programmes, fitness training, nutritional classes, and on-site massages. Provide an on-site information resource with details on local fitness clubs/programs, health food stores, web links to everything about exercise, ailments, healthy eating and more. You can even invite your clients with wellness packages to various destinations and spa resorts.
Start small and let the wellness programmes evolve naturally so it becomes a long-term programme. Develop goals and bonuses but don’t make it with lots of pressure.
Offer incentives – free spa treatment or discounts at spas, exercise or nutrition equipment from weights to smoothie mixes to a fun agency get together.
Still not convinced there are benefits to wellness. Thankfully the spa world is paying for and obtaining more scientific research into different kinds of wellness and health treatments. Here’s a quick summary from Wellness Evidence – an online portal linking numerous medical studies on commonly used wellness modalities and treatments.
Accupuncture – manages pain, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, improves sleep.
Biofeedback – manages pain, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, manages blood pressure
Exercise – manages pain, controls/prevents diabetes, weight loss/improves nutrition, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, improves sleep
Meditation – manages pain, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, manages blood pressure
Pilates – manages pain, weight loss/improves nutrition
Tai Chi – controls/prevents diabetes, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, manages blood pressure
Therapeutic Massage – manages pain, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, improves sleep
Yoga – manages pain, controls/prevents diabetes, weight loss/improves nutrition, alleviates depression/anxiety/stress, manages blood pressure, improves sleep.
Wellness makes sense – whether you are a home-based agent or part of a big agency or travel organization. Tell the powers to be at your company you would like to see a wellness component or programme initiated. Or maybe it already is and you have ideas on how to expand the wellness programs being offered.

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