There are numerous types of employee wellness programs. Essentially, employee wellness programs encourage individuals to take measures to prevent the onset or worsening of a disease or illness and to lead lifestyles that are healthier. Corporations may implement many types of health promotion programs, from onsite fitness centers to simple health promotion newsletters. While some employers have instituted very expansive employee wellness programs, others have achieved savings or increased productivity with a few relatively easy initiatives which promote healthier lifestyles. Getting started is what matters the most. Having a plan, along with one or two employee wellness programs, can serve as a starting point for creating a more expansive program down the road.
Why employee wellness programs?
Worksite health promotion are an investment in your corporation’s most important asset, your workers. Research has shown that workers are more likely to come to work 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 business that appreciates them. employee wellness programs improves company productivity by:
- Attracting better staff;
- Lowering the rate of absenteeism and time lost;
- Improving on-the-job time utilization and decision making; and
- Improving employee morale, resulting in lower turnover.
In addition, employee wellness programs have proven to be an effective tool in reducing the growth of health care costs. Selecting healthier alternatives may lower an employee’s chances of suffering from illness. Less illness means businesses can reduce health plan use, thereby reducing health benefit costs, and consequently increasing earnings. While health cost reduction from employee wellness programs may be less evident than productivity gains, research shows that medically high-risk workers are medically high-cost workers as they use additional health care and generate higher claims costs.
Finally, by investing in wellness programs , businesses will be helping the United States achieve its two major Healthy People 2010 worksite-specific objectives:
- 75 percent of all corporations, regardless of size, having a comprehensive employee wellness programs; and
- 75 percent of all a company’s staff participating in employer-sponsored employee wellness programs.
Recommended Practices When Designing employee wellness programs
WELCOA, an organization committed to employee wellness programs, has identified seven best practices (“The Seven C’s”) for businesses to follow when creating a expansive, effective worksite health promotion program within their corporation.
- Capture upper-level support. A commitment from upper management is critical to the success of all employee wellness programs. Senior staff must understand the benefits of the program for both the workers and the corporation and be willing to fund its design, implementation and evaluation. Descriptions of what other businesses are doing in the way of employee wellness programs and linking health promotion to goals of the business, values and important priorities will enable you to gain senior management support. Supervisors who “practice what they preach” and actively participate in the initiative will go a long way to driving others to take part in as well.
- Establish a health promotion team. Health promotion teams should include a variety of possible initiative participants including workers. Your team should include people who will be part of establishing the health program, setting up the health initiative and evaluating the health program. This establishes ownership of the health initiative and more creative ideas. A health promotion team will help to get “buy in” from both senior staff and the participants, develop a health program that is responsive to all potential participant needs, and will be responsible for managing all of the company’s health promotion efforts.
- Collect data that will drive your employee wellness programs. Once your health promotion team is in place and senior staff is on board, it is time to collect baseline data to help evaluate employee wellness interests and health risks. The results of your data collection will assist you in what kind of health programs to provide. This process may involve a questionnaire of employee interest in different wellness initiatives, health risk assessments, and claims review to determine current worker risk of disease.
- Create a yearly operating plan. For your wellness program to work, you must have a goal. An annual operating plan should include a mission statement for the health promotion program in addition to specific, measurable short-and long-term objectives. Your health promotion program is most likely to be successful when it is linked to one or more of the businesses strategic plans, as it will have a better chance of maintaining the support of the powers that be throughout the implementation 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.
- Choose appropriate employee wellness programs. The employee wellness programs that you choose must flow naturally from your data (survey, Health Risk Appraisal aggregate report, claims) to goals. They should address current risk factors in your workforce and be in line with what both executive management and workers want from the wellness initiative.
- Create a supportive environment. A supportive environment provides workers with encouragement, opportunity, and rewards. A culture of wellness that encourages employee wellness programs might have such features as healthy food choices in their vending machines, a no-smoking policy and flex-time that allow employees to be physically active. A workplace that appreciates wellness will applaud and reward wellness achievements and have a management team that demonstrates healthy behavior. Most importantly, a culture of wellness involves workers in every part of the employee wellness initiative from their design and marketing to their implementation and review.
- Consistently evaluate the outcomes of your employee wellness programs. Evaluation involves taking a close look at your objectives and determining whether you achieved your desired result. The review process allows you applaud goals that have been achieved and to stop or alter ineffective initiatives.