Health Links (HL): Why is the health and wellness of your employees important to you?
Douglas County Libraries (DCL): First and foremost, we want our employees to be healthy and safe. We want to do all we can to help towards this goal. Also, we need to keep our workers’ compensation costs down. We want to minimize issues which keep us from providing the best in customer service and reaching our organization’s goals. When staff members are sick and not available to work, this hurts our productivity. A health and safe workforce is generally a happy, engaged and productive workforce.
HL: How will you/do you know your program is successful?
DCL: We know our program is successful when we see staff become aware of health and safety aspects within their everyday activities. For example, staff suggesting stretches they like to do for their pre-shift stretches, staff including healthier options like fruits and veggies in their celebrations and meetings, staff being more pro-active on health and safety issues, and being more aware of their surroundings, and reductions in workers’ comp reports and costs, and a lessening of the severity of claims. These changes, no matter how small, add up to a move within our culture towards our health and safety goal, which is to strive to create a strong health and safety culture within DCL, where everyone is accountable for health and safety in the workplace, and where they feel empowered to take action to ensure their own health and safety and the health and safety of their fellow employees.
HL: What obstacles did you have to overcome to get your program started? How did you overcome them?
DCL: The main obstacles we have at DCL are the wide variations in shifts and schedules of our staff. We are open 7-days a week and shifts can start as early as 7:00 am and end as late as 9:00 pm. It makes communications and planning difficult, it also makes it hard for staff to participate in program activities as a group or in teams. We use email as our primary communication platform (everyone has a work email account), and post information strategically in break rooms. We run activities and programs for at least a month so everyone has a chance to participate, and while participation is usually at the individual level, we link it to our various branches for a more team feeling.
HL: Do you incorporate safety along with your wellness program? If so, what does this look like?
DCL: Yes. Our safety program began in 2008 with a focus on work ergonomics and injury prevention, through task specific brief monthly safety training, and the creation of the safety committee. As we progressed, the significance of the health component within safety became evident, so our program evolved into its current health and safety structure.
HL: What tip/advice would you give to a business that is considering starting a workplace wellness program?
DCL: Don’t let the words ‘start a program’ keep you from starting. Resources with information to share are a click away; you can connect with your local health department, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, the CDC and many more. You can link information on heart health to Valentine’s Day, or you can join a national event, like wear pink for breast cancer in October. It will be your program, so share the information the way it works best for your organization. It can be as easy as posting a flyer or sending an email, and of course, you can make it an event. It probably won’t take as much time as you think it will, you’ll learn a lot, and it is fun. If you already have a safety program, transitioning to a health and safety program is the best ‘next step’ you can take, and it will be easier to do than you think.