There are many varieties of employee wellness programs. Essentially, employee 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 implement a wide range of employee wellness programs, from onsite fitness centers to simple employee wellness newsletters.
While some businesses have started very extensive employee wellness programs, others have attained savings or increased productivity with a few relatively easy activities that promote healthy behaviors. 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 building a more extensive program at a future time.
Why Employee Wellness?
Employee wellness programs are an investment in your corporation’s most valuable resource, 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 appreciate a company that appreciates them. Employee wellness programs improves company productivity by:
- Attracting better employees;
- Reducing the rate of absenteeism and time lost;
- Enhancing on-the-job performance and decision making; and
- Improving staff morale, which leads to a reduction in turnover.
In addition to enhanced productivity, employee wellness programs have been shown to be effective tools in reducing the growth of medical care costs. Choosing healthier options may lower an employee’s chances of suffering from disease. Less disease means employers can lower medical plan use, thereby lowering medical plan costs, and in turn increasing the bottom line. While medical cost savings from employee wellness programs may be less evident than productivity gains, studies show 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 health promotion , companies will be helping America achieve its two major Healthy People 2010 worksite-specific goals:
- 75 percent of all a company’s staff participating in employee wellness programs and activities; and
- 75 percent of all companies, regardless of size, having a comprehensive employee wellness program
Recommended Practices When Establishing Employee Wellness Programs
The Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA), an organization dedicated to employee wellness programs, has identified seven best practices (“The Seven C’s”) for employers to follow when building a extensive, effective employee wellness program within their company.
- Capture senior-level support. Approval from senior management is critical to the success of any employee wellness program. Senior staff must understand the benefits of the program for both the workers and the company and be willing to put funds towards its design, implementation and evaluation. Details of what other corporations are doing for their employee wellness programs and linking health promotion to business goals, values and strategic priorities will help to secure upper level management support. Managers who “practice what they preach” and take part in the initiative will go a long way to driving others to participate as well.
- Create an employee wellness team. Employee Wellness Teams should include a wide range of potential initiative participants including workers. Your team should include individuals who will be part of establishing the employee wellness program, implementing the health initiative and evaluating the employee wellness program. This establishes ownership of the health initiative and more innovative ideas. An employee wellness team will help to garner “buy in” from both senior staff and the participants, develop an employee program that is responsive to all potential participant needs, and will be accountable for managing all of the company’s wellness efforts.
- Collect data that will drive your employee wellness programs. Once your employee wellness team is established and senior staff is on board, it is time to collect baseline information to help assess worker wellness interests and risks. The results of your data collection will assist you in what kind of health programs to provide. This process may involve a survey of worker interest in various employee wellness programs, health risk assessments, and claims review to determine current worker disease risk.
- Craft an annual operating plan. For your employee wellness program to work, you must have a plan. A yearly operating plan should include a mission statement for the employee wellness program along with specific, measurable short-and long-term goals. Your employee wellness program is most likely to be a success when it is linked to one or more of the company’s strategic plans, as it will have an improved chance of maintaining the support of the powers that be throughout the implementation process. A written plan also provides continuity when members of the wellness team change and is important in holding the team accountable to the goals, objectives, and timeline agreed upon.
- Selecting the right employee wellness programs. The employee wellness programs that you select should flow naturally from your data (questionnaire, Health Risk Appraisal aggregate report, claims) to objectives. They ought to address prevailing risk factors in your workforce and be in line with what both upper management and workers want from the employee wellness initiative.
- Craft a supportive atmosphere. A supportive atmosphere provides workers with encouragement, opportunity, and incentives. A atmosphere of wellness that supports employee wellness programs might have such options as healthy food options in their vending machines, may not allow smoking or tobacco products and flexible work schedules that allow workers to workout. A workplace that appreciates wellness will celebrate and reward employee wellness achievements and have a management team that demonstrates healthy behavior. Most importantly, a atmosphere of wellness involves workers in every aspect of the employee wellness initiative from their design and marketing to their implementation and review.
- Consistently evaluate your outcomes. Evaluation involves taking a close look at your goals and determining whether you reached your desired result. Evaluation allows you celebrate goals that have been attained and to stop or change ineffective employee wellness programs.