May is a month when physical fitness, women’s health, awareness of high blood pressure, asthma and allergies often come to the attention of the public. And it can be a time that business owners, managers and employees think about workplace wellness.

However wellness is defined, the first step is to identify health risks by using an assessment tool usually in the form of a questionnaire. Once health risks are identified, healthful changes can be made to positively impact health and prevent chronic disease.

Workplace wellness programs are designed to support wellness in employees, regardless of the work environment.

They can be found in factories, corporate offices, large and small companies. Numerous studies have found a direct link: showing healthy employees are happier and more productive. Workplace wellness programs are a long-term investment and require monitoring and periodic adjustments. Programs that get mediocre results are those left to run on autopilot.

Workplace wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes; the most successful share five components:

1. Know thy enemy. What’s driving the largest health-care claim costs — among employees and their dependents. This provides the information needed to develop targeted workplace wellness programs.

2. Develop realistic workplace wellness program expectations.

3. Maintain strong workplace wellness program communications. Workplace wellness programs that achieve the greatest success are those which communicate assertively from the get-go and are sustained.

4. Integrate workplace wellness with other benefits. Connecting an employee assistance program with a workplace wellness program makes sense. Consider issues such as absenteeism, disability and workers’ compensation as pieces of the wellness equation.

5. Practice what’s preached. A key to ensuring employee buy-in is for employers to lead the workplace wellness program by setting a positive example. When upper-level managers are unwilling to participate and address their health issues, employees may not take the workplace wellness program seriously either.

Employees can find out if their employers offer a workplace wellness program. If they do not, people can ask if there is one available through their insurance plan.

Maine Educators Association Benefits Trust recently implemented a workplace wellness program for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield subscribers. Eligible employees who have registered for this program are being paid to participate.

Maine business owners and managers without a workplace wellness program and those interested in additional wellness support can call their Healthy Maine Partnerships to sign up for the free online tool — Healthy Maine Works. Waldo County businesses can call Healthy Waldo County at 930-6761 to get started using the free online tool, Healthy Maine Works.

Any Maine resident 18 years or older can access a free online health risk assessment and information on local low-cost health-care services by going online to

Community members can access wellness activities by joining Journey to Health, a community wellness program of Waldo County General Hospital. The free program is designed to support healthier lifestyles by encouraging community members to exercise consistently, eat better, and reduce stress. Exercise classes, including yoga, Pilates, zumba, and swing dancing are offered.

This summer, outdoor activities, including walking/hiking trips on local trails, hula-hooping in the park, and more are being planned. Community members and local businesses can sign up for Journey to Health by visiting or by calling 930-2514.