With the exponential rising cost of health care benefits, employers are looking for options to reduce costs. Kristie Howard, Vice President of Employee Benefit Services at Longfellow Benefits, states that while wellness programs have been around since the 1980s, employers are starting to shift their thinking about employee health. Forward-thinking employers view wellness programs as a health care cost management strategy anda business strategy. A Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 Health Benefits Survey supports the theory that more companies are engaging in wellness programs finding that 74% percent of companies offered at least one type of wellness program, up from 58% in 2009.
Research shows that worksite wellness programs:
- decrease health costs
- Reduce absenteeism
- Improve productivity
- Reduce worker’s comp claims
- Increase self-management
- Improve employee morale
- Reduce the “intent to quit”
- Reduce turnover
Before implementing a worksite wellness strategy, it’s helpful to know what type of risks your employees face. To gather this information, employees can complete a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) or needs/interests survey. Government statistics are also available that will show general information regading risk factors in the workplace. Specific company data and national information will be very helpful in getting executive buy-in for implementing a program. You may also want to create a wellness team that will help with the design of the program. Members of the wellness team should represent all areas of the company and will help spread the word about your intiatives. Once the data has been collected and the team in place, you’re now ready to outline your goals and objectives for the program. Your goals and objectives will help drive the action steps you are going to implement.
Wellness programs can run the gamut from a comprehensive program with fitness, nutrition and other components to a smaller, easier to implement, less costly program. Some lower cost ideas include:
- Check with your health plan or EAP to see what free wellness tools and resources they can provide;
- Research local and national organizations, such as the American Heart Association or American Cancer Society, as well as national and local public health centers about education and other programs they offer;
- Coordinate your efforts with nationally recognized campaigns such as the Great American Smokeout held every year in November or Heart month in February;
- Give employees information and reminders about wellness topics;
- Organize a walking program or exercise group;
- Hand out walking routes for walks near the office;
- Provide healthy snacks at company meetings and in the break rooms;
- Restock the vending machine with healthier options;
- Negotiate discounts at local health clubs;
- Join local sports leagues, such as summer softball leagues or run the Corporate Challenge in your city.
Be creative as you plan your wellness program – every action is a step in the right direction. Let us know your ideas for implementing a wellness program.