Designing an Effective Wellness Program

First blog in a series on corporate wellness

Workplace wellness statistics show that in as little as six weeks employee health risks can be dramatically improved. In addition, among  22 different studies that looked at wellness programs and healthcare costs, the average return on investment was 3.27, which means for every dollar spent on wellness, companies saved an average of $3.27 in healthcare costs.

To gain these benefits for your own company will require a sound strategy and careful planning. Wellness is definitely not one-size-fits-all. To be successful, you need to consider how a wellness program fits within your organization.

  1. Make it easy
    If your operations make it possible to provide centralized annual physicals or biometric screenings, that’s a great place to start. Other companies have operations spread across wide geographic regions. In those instances, on-site services may not be an option. Perhaps you’d be better served by promoting off-site screenings with physicians and working with a wellness vendor like Marquee Health. You pay for the screening tests and employees simply schedule an appointment.  Same goes for weight-loss, nutrition education or other programs. If you can’t have experts come to you, send your employees to them. Options to consider: reimburse employees for gym memberships, cover the costs for Weight Watchers, or engage employees with a 6-week online smoking cessation program.
  1. Consider your budget and your employee interests
    Know what you have to spend before searching for programming. In addition, know what health issues are of most concern to your employees. Utilize health and wellness data provided by your insurance broker to identify key areas of focus. Or an employee interest survey can help you identify those areas they worry about—weight, smoking, blood pressure, diet/nutrition, stress. Knowing what may motivate them to action will help you spend money more wisely. And a focus on health data will help you create a targeted approach and measured outcomes.
  1. Promote your program
    Make lots of noise about your wellness program and provide easy ways for employees to engage and ask questions. Make sure managers and supervisors participate themselves and speak often and openly about the program. Many employees fear their time spent on wellness will be questioned. Let them know their success directly benefits the company and is therefore appreciated and supported.
  1. Consider incentives
    Personal health gains should be enough motivation, but the reality is that employees are more likely to follow through on wellness programs that offer an incentive. This doesn’t have to be a monetary reward. How about an additional personal day-off for every 60 days of documented exercise or a clothing store gift certificate for every 10 percent of body weight lost? Be creative and have fun – and promote milestones reached. You can also tie participation to a reduction in insurance premiums. If you’d like some help with appropriate incentive levels, MJ has data to support this approach.

So this first blog simply introduces the idea of planning an effective wellness strategy. Future posts will focus on identifying the most common health risks you might want to focus on, compliance concerns, choosing an appropriate vendor, and the idea of tackling holistic wellness (going beyond physical wellbeing to also address emotional, spiritual, social, intellectual, occupational or environmental wellness). Come back and join the discussion!