I would like to encourage the DoD, and all agencies under OPM to expand its emphasis on improving and encouraging health and wellness plans within agencies. The use of DoD and OPM directives to make broad statements about general health and wellness programs does not encourage agencies to think ‘outside of the box.’ My recommendation would be to create a ‘toolkit’ of programs that individual agencies could use, with OPM language backing the cause, to promote healthy lifestyles. Specific examples would be the following; (1) Thee hours per week granted to employees for the purpose of exercise (this exists at some agencies, but guidance is vague at best), (2) Partial, or full compensation for gym fees (for those civilian employees without access to installation drill halls), (3) Incentive awards for commands that achieve a certain percentage of participation in the three hour per week program promoted in number (1), (4) Individual and group incentive awards for agencies that participate and achieve benchmarks using the President’s Challenge website (http://presidentschallenge.com/). The idea would be to incentivize employees by granting them the time out of their workweek to improve their health and build on that experience by providing challenges, for the individual and command alike, that would foster a healthier workplace.
I supported a civilian command that had a modified version of this very program and from personal experience I can say with confidence that I was a healthier employee and the workforce I was a part of was the most energetic that I’ve seen.
In light of recent health care legislation, the federal government, with leadership from OPM, has the opportunity to prove that it is willing to step up to the plate when it comes to empowering a healthier workplace. If there is an upfront incentive that the employee recognizes – “I’m 30% of the way towards a healthier lifestyle because I feel I now have the time to exercise” – positive results will follow. Healthier employees = Lower group policy costs.