There are many varieties of worksite wellness programs. Essentially, worksite 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. Employers may implement a wide range of worksite wellness programs, from onsite gyms to simple worksite wellness newsletters.
While some corporations have started very expansive worksite wellness programs, others have attained savings or increased productivity with a few relatively easy initiatives that promote healthy behaviors. Getting started is what matters the most.
Having a plan, along with an idea or two about worksite wellness programs, can serve as a starting point for building a more expansive program down the road.
Why Worksite Wellness?
Worksite wellness programs are an investment in your company’s most important resource, your workers. Studies have shown that workers are more likely to be on the job and performing well when they are in feeling well both physically and mentally. Employees are also more likely to be attracted to, remain with, and appreciate a business that appreciates them. Worksite wellness programs improves company productivity by:
- Attracting better employees;
- Reducing absenteeism and time lost;
- Improving on-the-job performance and decision making; and
- Improving employee morale, which in turn lowers turnover.
In addition to improvements in productivity, worksite wellness programs have proved to be effective tools in reducing the growth of medical care costs. Choosing healthier alternatives may reduce an employee’s chances of suffering from disease. Less disease means employers can reduce health plan utilization, thereby reducing health plan costs, and in turn increasing earnings. While health cost savings from worksite 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 health care and generate higher claims costs.
Finally, by investing in worksite wellness , companies will be helping America achieve its two major Healthy People 2010 worksite-specific objectives:
- 75% of all companies, regardless of size, providing a wide reaching worksite wellness program; and
- 75% of all a company’s staff participating in employer-sponsored worksite wellness programs.
Recommendations When Creating Worksite Wellness Programs
WELCOA, an organization dedicated to worksite wellness programs, has identified seven best practices (“The Seven C’s”) for employers to follow when creating a expansive, effective worksite wellness program within their business.
- Gain senior-level support. A commitment from senior management is crucial to the success of any worksite wellness program. Management must understand the benefits of the program for both the employees and the business and be willing to fund its design, implementation and evaluation. Descriptions of what other companies are doing for their worksite wellness programs and linking worksite wellness to goals of the business, values and strategic priorities will help to secure upper level management support. Managers who “practice what they preach” and actively participate in the program will go a long way to driving others to participate as well.
- Create a worksite wellness team. Worksite wellness teams should include a variety of possible program participants including workers. Your team should include people who will be part of creating the health program, setting up the health program and evaluating the worksite wellness program. This creates ownership of the program and generates more innovative ideas. A worksite wellness team will help to get “buy in” from both senior staff and the participants, develop a health program that is responsive to all participant needs, and will be accountable for managing all of the company’s wellness efforts.
- Collect data that will drive your worksite wellness initiatives. Once your worksite wellness team is in place and senior staff is on board, it is time to collect baseline information to help assess employee interests and risks. The results of your data collection will assist you in what kind of health initiatives to offer. This process may involve a questionnaire of employee interest in various worksite wellness programs, health risk assessments, and claims analysis to determine current worker disease risk.
- Craft an annual operating program. For your worksite wellness program to succeed, you must have a goal. An annual operating plan should include a mission statement for the worksite wellness program along with specific, measurable short-and long-term objectives. Your worksite wellness program is more likely to be successful if it is linked to one or more of the businesses strategic plans, as it will have an improved chance of maintaining the support of the powers that be throughout the installation process. A written plan also provides continuity when members of the wellness team change and is instrumental in holding the team accountable to the goals, objectives, and timeline agreed upon.
- Choose appropriate health initiatives. The health initiatives that you select must flow naturally from your data (survey, Health Risk Assessment aggregate report, claims) to goals and objectives. They should address the predominate risk factors in your workforce and be in line with what both senior management and workers want from the worksite wellness program.
- Craft a supportive environment. A supportive environment provides workers with praise, opportunity, and rewards. A atmosphere of wellness that stands behind worksite wellness programs might have such options as healthy food choices in their vending machines, may not allow smoking or tobacco products and flex-time that allow employees to be physically active. A worksite that appreciates wellness will applaud and praise worksite wellness accomplishments and have a executive team that models healthy behavior. Most importantly, a culture of wellness involves workers in every part of the worksite wellness program from their development and marketing to their implementation and evaluation.
- Consistently assess your outcomes. Evaluation involves taking a close look at your objectives and determining if you attained your desired result. Evaluation allows you celebrate goals that have been achieved and to discontinue or alter ineffective worksite wellness programs.