There are many varieties of corporate wellness programs. Essentially, corporate wellness programs encourage people to take measures to prevent the onset or worsening of a disease or illness and to adopt lifestyles that are healthier.
Corporations may utilize a wide range of corporate wellness programs, from onsite gyms to simple corporate wellness newsletters. While some corporations have started very expansive corporate wellness programs, others have attained savings or increased productivity with just a few simple initiatives that promote healthier lifestyles.
Getting started is what matters the most. Having a plan, along with an idea or two about corporate wellness programs, can serve as a starting point for creating a more expansive program at a future time.
Why Corporate Wellness?
Corporate wellness programs are an investment in your corporation’s most valuable asset, your workers. Studies have shown that workers are more likely to be on the job and performing well when they are in optimal physical and psychological health. Employees are also more likely to be attracted to, remain with, and value a employer that appreciates them. Corporate wellness programs improves company productivity by:
- Attracting superior quality employees;
- Reducing absenteeism and time lost;
- Enhancing on-the-job performance and decision making; and
- Improving worker morale, resulting in lower turnover.
In addition to enhanced productivity, corporate wellness programs have been shown to be effective tools in slowing the growth of health care costs. Selecting healthier alternatives may reduce an employee’s chances of suffering from illness. Less illness means corporations can reduce medical plan utilization, thereby reducing medical benefit costs, and in turn increasing earnings. While medical cost savings from corporate wellness programs may be less evident than productivity gains, research shows that medically high-risk workers are medically high-cost workers as they use more medical care and generate higher claims costs.
Finally, by investing in corporate wellness programs , companies will be helping the United States achieve its two major Healthy People 2010 worksite goals:
- 75 percent of all businesses, regardless of size, offering a wide reaching corporate wellness program; and
- 75 percent of all a company’s staff participating in employer-sponsored corporate wellness activities.
Best Practices When Creating Corporate Wellness Programs
WELCOA, an organization dedicated to corporate wellness programs, has identified seven best practices (“The Seven C’s”) for corporations to follow when building a expansive, effective employee health promotion programs within their business.
- Capture senior-level support. Approval from senior management is crucial to the success of any health initiative. Senior staff has to understand the benefits of the initiative for both the staff and the business and be willing to put funds towards its design, implementation and evaluation. Descriptions of what other corporations are doing for their corporate wellness programs and linking corporate wellness to goals of the business, values and strategic priorities will enable you to gain senior management support. Managers who “practice what they preach” and take part in the program will go a long way to driving others to take part in as well.
- Establish a corporate wellness team. Corporate wellness teams should include a wide range of potential program participants including workers. Your team should include individuals who will be part of establishing the corporate wellness program, setting up the wellness program and evaluating the corporate wellness program. This establishes ownership of the corporate wellness program and more creative ideas. A corporate wellness team will help to get “buy in” from both management and the participants, develop a wellness initiative that is responsive to all potential participant needs, and will be accountable for managing all of the company’s health promotion efforts.
- Collect information that will drive your health initiatives. Once your corporate wellness team is in place and management is on board, it is time to collect baseline information to help assess worker wellness interests and health risks. The results of your data collection will guide you in what kind of corporate wellness initiatives to offer. This process may involve a questionnaire of worker interest in various corporate wellness initiatives, health risk assessments, and claims review to determine current employee risk of disease.
- Create a yearly operating program. For your corporate wellness program to succeed, you must have a goal. An annual operating plan should include a mission statement for the corporate wellness initiative along with specific, measurable short-and long-term goals. Your corporate wellness initiative is more likely to be successful when it is linked to one or more of the corporation’s strategic plans, as it will have a better chance of retaining the support of the powers that be throughout the installation process. A written plan also provides continuity when members of the health promotion team change and is instrumental in holding the team accountable to the goals, objectives, and timeline agreed upon.
- Selecting the right corporate wellness initiatives. The corporate wellness initiatives that you select must flow naturally from your data (survey, Health Risk Assessment aggregate report, claims) to goals and objectives. They should address prevailing risk factors in your employee population and be in line with what both senior management and workers want from the corporate wellness program.
- Create a supportive atmosphere. A supportive atmosphere provides workers with praise, opportunity, and rewards. A culture of wellness that stands behind corporate wellness programs might have such options as healthy food choices in their vending machines, may not allow smoking or tobacco products and flexible work schedules that allow staff to workout. A worksite that values corporate wellness will celebrate and reward wellness achievements and have a management team that models healthy behavior. Most importantly, a atmosphere of wellness involves workers in every aspect of the corporate wellness program from their creation and marketing to their implementation and evaluation.
- Consistently evaluate your results. Evaluation involves taking a close look at your goals and deciding if you achieved your desired result. The review process allows you celebrate goals that have been attained and to stop or alter ineffective corporate wellness initiatives.