Is health coaching an effective tool for improving employee health as part of a wellness program?

Q:

Is health coaching an effective tool for improving employee health as part of a wellness program?

A:

Healthcare costs, absenteeism, and presenteeism can be reduced by the implementation of effective wellness programs in the workplace.

In the context of a corporate wellness program, the role of a health coach is not only to educate employees to have healthier lifestyles but most importantly to motivate and empower them so that they can sustain their involvement and continue practicing the healthy options they decide to adopt such as exercise, healthy diet, smoking cessation, and weight loss.

Health coaching is a valuable tool that makes employees healthier from several points of views:

  • At the individual level, an employee who quit smoking is more likely to be more focused at work, and will probably have a better overall health.
  • At the group level, group coaching supports team building, communication, mutual understanding and collaboration, as different participants share their experiences and knowledge and learn from others. Consequently, the corporate environment becomes friendlier and less stressful, which has in its turn health and well-being benefits on the employees.
  • At the organizational level, healthier and happier employees, strengthened teams, as well as enhanced collaboration, is likely to increase productivity. This also may positively affect the general health and well-being of the employees.

That said, health coaching can be more effective if it includes specific items. The health coach should respect the employee’s freedom of accessing the service and deciding when and how to change so that employees feel they are in control of their own lives and being helped, instead of controlled and ordered. A health coach must respect the confidentiality of the information given by employees and their privacy, especially in one to one sessions and where protected health information (PHI) is concerned. Also, whenever possible, a health coach should remain with an employee throughout the plan in order to foster teamwork and provide a sense of stability throughout the process. Finally, the mission of the health coach should be focused on positive guidance and helping employees access resources to make and sustain a positive change in their lifestyle.

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