What Goes Into a Wellness Program?
A 2016 report from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 78% of surveyed businesses oﬀered wellness beneﬁts to their employees. It’s true that wellness programs are most common in large corporations, but small companies also can oﬀer these beneﬁts and reap the advantages.
Generally, wellness programs may improve worker morale and perhaps lead to greater retention of key employees. Direct results might include fewer health-related absences, greater energy, and more on-the-job productivity. Cost reduction also may result if the company winds up paying less for health insurance and workers’ compensation.
Education and motivation
If you decide to oﬀer a wellness program to employees, where do you begin? One popular starting point is to oﬀer education and information leading to better health choices. Wellness tips might be delivered by health-oriented newsletters, email, or tweets. Companies commonly schedule “health fairs,” events where vendors and exhibitors come to the workplace with educational materials on health and ﬁtness. Often, employees can get readings on blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other physical conditions at health fairs.
Taking ﬁtness information a step further, some wellness programs bring in health or lifestyle coaches for the employees. Although these coaches will diﬀer in their approach, they generally attempt to help plan participants discover and articulate wellness goals. Those objectives might include weight loss, better eating, smoking cessation, and stress reduction. Once the goals have been expressed, wellness coaches may help employees make reasonable choices towards achieving the desired results.
Stepping into wellness
Beyond information, wellness programs can include simple group activities such as stretching and walking. “Stretch breaks” might be led by trainers, who’ll demonstrate simple exercises that can be done at work to prevent soft tissue injuries. Walking programs, which often are popular among employees, might involve establishing walkway routes around the oﬃce to encourage employees to become more active. The American Heart Association oﬀers a Workplace Walking Program Kit to help companies get their employees to take “the ﬁrst step on the path to wellness,” as the association puts it.
Wellness programs also can deliver medical beneﬁts to employees. For example, many health care companies oﬀer on-site ﬂu vaccine clinics. Convenient and cost-free for employees, such beneﬁts may attract workers who don’t otherwise participate in wellness programs, perhaps enticing them to become more active. Of course, widespread ﬂu vaccination likely will cut down on employee sick days lost to inﬂuenza.
Another popular beneﬁt available from health care companies is a toll-free 24-hour nurse telephone line. Participants, covered spouses, and eligible dependents can receive immediate answers from registered nurses to questions about possible illnesses, minor injuries, prescription instructions, and other areas of concern.
Wellness programs can be tailored to suit the needs of your employees. Beneﬁts might include smoking cessation or weight loss programs, CPR and ﬁrst aid training, visiting guest speakers from local hospitals and universities, and more.
To encourage participation in wellness programs, you might oﬀer discounts on health insurance premiums for getting an annual health risk assessment, for example, or for not smoking. Conversely, employees who smoke might have to pay higher premiums. One way to start a wellness program is to ask your health insurance company which beneﬁts have proven to be most eﬀective.