According to a RAND survey, roughly half of U.S. employers with 50 or more employees sponsor some type of corporate wellness program. With rising health care costs and absenteeism due to health problems on the rise, wellness programs can be a good way to improve employee health and morale while cutting health-related costs for employers.
But you need to choose the right wellness program for your company. Success is dependent on both employee engagement and support from all levels of management.
To get started, assess your workplace to determine your employees’ health problems and fitness levels, as well as their interest in different types of wellness programs.
Consider using surveys, focus groups and health risk assessments to learn more about the health and interest areas of your employees.
Areas of focus for a corporate wellness program may include disease prevention, fitness, smoking cessation, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, nutrition education, mental health help, weight loss and stress management.
Related: Are Fitness Trackers More Fiction than Fact?
Like most things in life, if your employees don’t see a benefit, you should expect low engagement and participation.
This bears repeating: For a wellness program to succeed, leadership on all levels must also buy in to the wellness program idea.
Gaining upper-level management support will mean easier access to resources and staff time to develop and implement your wellness program. The participation of direct managers throughout your organization is also important because they will be able to encourage more engagement among all your employees, increasing the ROI of your program through widespread participation.
Workplace wellness programs can cover an extremely wide range of activities and initiatives. What follows are three general categories of wellness programs.
The least-involved types of wellness programs are screening activities. These are health risk assessments, which can be self-administered questionnaires or biometric screenings. The goal of these programs is to give employees information on their health status and possibly prompt changes to achieve better health. Biometric screenings can often be set up through your health plan provider, making the screenings one of the least costly and time-consuming programs available.
These wellness programs will require a little more investment in time and financial resources because they may require corporate changes and outside resources. You can consider providing educational sessions and materials for employee groups, or you might provide individual or group counseling sessions for such topics as smoking cessation or alcohol or drug abuse. Other types of wellness promotion programs may include changing policies or procedures around the workplace, such as switching to healthier cafeteria or vending machine offerings, or promoting walking meetings instead of meetings in a conference room.
These wellness programs might include a weight-loss initiative, a walking competition or similar ideas that attempt to influence employee behavior. Typically these programs require up-front investment by the employer in planning, potentially bringing in outside counselors or resources, providing any necessary equipment (such as pedometers or a scale for weigh-ins) and offering various incentives or rewards for participants as they meet their fitness goals. This type of highly involved program will likely see the best ROI, but, again, it needs a high level of support from management and high employee engagement in order to be successful.
T. Scott Kennedy, president and COO of CCIG, has more than 30 years of insurance and risk management experience.
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