New Policy Promotes Employee Health
Most of us at NIH invest a great deal of mental and emotional energy each day helping to improve the health of the nation. But how many of us invest in our own health during the work day?
We can infer from the results of the 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) that it’s a low number, with only 16.3 percent of NIH respondents indicating they participate in “health and wellness programs,” including exercise and medical screenings. The government-wide FEVS response to that question was 10 percentage points higher than the NIH response.
However, this may soon change for the better with publication of the first NIH policy to address employee wellness. Finalized last summer, the NIH Workplace Wellness Policy aims to empower employees to work with their supervisors to make use of scheduling flexibilities to engage in a wide range of wellness activities.
“As the nation’s premier biomedical research agency, the NIH recognizes that our organizational effectiveness relies upon the well-being of our employees,” said Dr. Alfred Johnson, NIH deputy director for management. “The new policy demonstrates NIH’s commitment to promoting the health and productivity of our workforce.”
The workplace wellness policy, one of several achievements of the NIH health & wellness council (HWC) since its inception in 2010, provides guidance on the use of scheduling flexibilities for work-day participation in exercise, wellness lectures, visits to the Employee Assistance Program and/or other approved activities that support health and well-being.
“The primary reason we created the policy,” said NIDA’s Quandra Blackeney, HWC workplace wellness policy committee chair, “was to promote a culture of wellness at NIH. And the place to start was by strongly encouraging supervisors to actually initiate the discussions and offer employees the option.”
Much research shows that many chronic medical conditions can be prevented or better managed by daily healthy lifestyle choices related to how we eat, handle stress, manage our finances, exercise, socialize and sleep. “We have to help employees see that making lifestyle changes can optimize their health and also be part of their work day, and this policy sets out to do both,” Blackeney noted.
To access the new policy, go to https://policymanual.nih.gov/1481. For tips on Creating Healthy Habits, go to https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2018/03/creating-healthy-habits.
For more information about the HWC and the range of wellness offerings that support employee well-being, visit https://wellnessatnih.nih.gov/Pages/About.aspx.—Sophia Glezos Voit