According to the Society for Human Resource Management, eight in 10 workers say they are stressed by at least one thing at work. About 1 in 2 workers in low-paying jobs say their job has a negative effect on their stress levels, while about 4 in 10 in medium- and high-paying jobs say the same, according to several sources cited by Happify Health, a New York City-based company that helps employees develop skills to reduce stress. Among those sources were the 2016 Work and Well-Being Survey from the American Psychological Association and a 2016 study by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

So what are companies doing to help relieve stress in the workplace?

They’re adding amenities like medical clinics, massage chairs and gyms.

At BancorpSouth, which employs nearly 1,000 people in Tupelo and Lee County alone, a new medical clinic is being added to its sprawling campus on West Jackson Street. The technology and support operations are located there, with some 700 employees at work.

CEO Dan Rollins said offering more benefits to the bank’s employees is important.

“You look at the healthcare benefits, retirement, sick time, vacation time, personal time, all that, we continue to look at how we stack up,” he said. “That’s a piece of attracting and retaining quality staff. From the medical side, with 1,000 people in town, having that clinic is just an easy way to provide that benefit.”

Wellness programs, once seen as an employee perk, is almost a requirement today for businesses large and small. Studies have shown such program are beneficial in myriad ways.

“The core of every good wellness program is behavior change,” according to WellSteps, a Utah-based wellness firm. “With the right education, skills, motivation, skills/tools and social support, people change behaviors. Wellness programs are good at helping people adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of having a wellness program.”

Phillip Raper, the director of North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Centers, said healthy behaviors lead to lower health risks, and lower health risks lead to less chronic disease. With less chronic disease employees have fewer health care costs.

And according to Forbes, employee wellness programs are successful in a lot of different ways. For companies, wellness programs have been shown to boast an average return on investment of about 3:1. Outside of the direct financial gains, companies have seen reductions in employee absenteeism, staff turnover and employee stress.

At Toyota Mississippi in Blue Springs, some 2,000 workers – or team members, as they’re called – work two shifts. The 2 million-square-foot plant is a small city in itself – not only does it have a cafeteria, it also has a uniform shop, a medical clinic, a fitness center and soon, a pharmacy and mini-Walmart.

Brooke Massey, the medical specialist at Toyota, said the company offers various wellness initiatives for team members.

“We do weight-loss challenges, for example, which is very popular. We work in conjunction with the gym, and we also have provided vouchers for Weight Watchers, which we pay for eight weeks and bring them onsite,” she said.

Toyota also offers monthly topics and challenges for the team members, food guide plans, health risk assessments and even personal training in the gym.

“We also offer stretching and massages and customized plans if they request it,” Massey said.

In fact, every shop at Toyota Mississippi has massage chairs, where team members can take advantage during breaks and between shifts.

FitBits, stationary bikes, home gym equipment, rowing machines and other prizes have been given away to encourage team members to participate in the company’s wellness programs.

Raper said, on average, about 10-15 percent of a company’s workforce will take advantage of wellness programs, even though the benefits are clear.

“Here at the Wellness Center, we take it to another level,” he said. “We have a registered dietician on staff, we do cooking demos, nutrition classes ... we give them a medical questionnaire, too. With that, we’re looking to see if there’s something more we can do to help them with than being a gym for them to go to.”

To increase participation, Raper said many companies offer incentives to workers. For example, the more an employee goes to the gym, the less he or she pays. Some businesses offer to pay the entire fee if a certain number of days are met each month.

“I look at employees wellness and fitness like getting oil change for your car,” he said. “It’s like maintenance on your car; your body is like a car – if you don’t take care of it, it’s going to tear down. We have to somehow focus more on the preventative side instead of waiting for treatment.” n

Twitter: @dennisseid

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