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If you’ve ever worked for a large company, you’ve probably heard the pitch from HR about all the fabulous benefits available to you, like paid time off and free or discounted access to a gym.

In fact, wellness benefits are growing to the point where they’re the norm, rather than the exception, for mid-sized and bigger employers. The Society for Human Resource Management reported in June that the number of companies offering preventive health and wellness benefits has grown over the past five years.

There’s just one problem: Not enough employees are taking advantage of these benefits.

According to the RAND Corp., participation ranges between 20% and 40% for employers that offer wellness programs. “In spite of widespread access, the actual use of wellness programs by eligible employees and/or dependents remains limited,” a 2014 RAND report stated.

Incentives Work When They’re Done Right

Employers offer wellness programs and resources for a number of reasons. Topping the list is the effort to manage health care costs. But many also want to do everything they can to promote a healthy, happier and more productive workforce.

To bump up enrollment, more employers are offering incentives, and a smaller but sizeable number also have penalties in place for employees not participating. The RAND study found that incentives and penalties do work. Employers with no incentives or penalties report about a 20% participation rate, but that number increases to 40% for employers with incentives. And those with penalties see participation at a rate of 73%.

How to Jump In

If your employer offers wellness benefits, there are probably many ways to participate. The types of wellness benefits differ greatly among employers, but most employees can find something that appeals to them. Whether it be a class, a few extra trips to the gym, or signing up for a different lunch option, the first step is to jump in.

Jennifer Arnold, manager of client health promotion at BCBSNC, offers these four tips for employees who want to be healthier, boost their energy and feel better at work:

Get out there. If your company has a gym, ask for an orientation with the staff to help you develop plans and goals for lunch breaks, workouts after work, and even a weekend routine that you can do with nearby coworkers. No gym? Walk! Take a few laps around your office, get outside, and take the stairs. Instead of meeting in a conference room, take a walking meeting to walk-and-talk.

Lunch right. We have to make sure we are getting the nutrients we need each day, and enough of them. Take advantage of any benefits that are offered, from counseling with a nutritionist to healthy eating or weight-reduction classes at work.

Get connected. Having someone to encourage you on your track to wellness is key. Running clubs, softball teams, Weight Watchers at Work, and other workplace wellness groups are great avenues to stay on track with wellness, while getting to know your coworkers outside of meetings.

Talk it out. When we think of workplace wellness, our minds tend to go directly to a mental image of treadmills and weights in the gym. Chances are, if your employer offers wellness and preventive health benefits, there are many other opportunities for wellness, including counseling. Often times, counseling is through a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Stress-reduction benefits and EAP’s are a great way to connect directly to your work – after all, work is one of our biggest sources of stress. Wellness is a state of wellbeing, not just a number on a scale.

And Amy Grazen, a training and performance coach in Raleigh, says the advantage of using workplace wellness benefits is that it engages you with co-workers to create a higher-performing environment. “It creates an atmosphere of mutual respect for choosing to be healthy, energized and engaged at work by exercising…and participating in onsite wellness opportunities.”

So take advantage of those workplace wellness opportunities, and use the benefits that you have. If you don’t have access to workplace wellness benefits, talk to your employer. After all, your health and wellbeing is important. Don’t let wellness be the one of the fabulous, offered benefits that you forget to use.

[Top image: Shutterstock]

Kayt Leonard

About Kayt Leonard

Kayt Leonard is a Rotational Development Associate in Corporate Communications at BCBSNC, and is passionate about keeping people well-informed through social engagement.

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