Creating a culture of wellness in the workplace
In conversations with local employers, I’m often told that creating a successful employee wellness strategy is a top priority for their businesses because they see the advantages of a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. Yet, some employers are struggling with how to start, maintain and measure their wellness programs.
Wellness programs aren’t a new idea, but they are an important business decision that involves a company’s most important assets — its employees.
The purpose of workplace wellness programs is to help employees maintain or improve their health. Benefits may include increased employee satisfaction, increased productivity, reduced attrition, lower absenteeism and lower medical costs. In fact, most employees with access to wellness programs say the programs have made a positive impact on their health, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey.
The following are five tips for employers to consider when starting a wellness program or refining their existing program.
Customize a strategy for your workforce: Review historical insurance claims data to identify the most common health challenges, prevalent health needs and high-risk populations. Use this insight to help develop a custom strategy integrating a variety of solutions to target top priorities.
Offer incentives to get employees to participate: Align incentives with your wellness program’s goals so employees are rewarded for participating and achieving positive results. Choose incentives that are meaningful to your employees. Do they prefer financial incentives, such as gift cards, reductions in plan premiums or health savings account contributions? Or would vacation days or a charitable donation be better motivators? Provide incentives on an ongoing basis if possible, so employees are rewarded throughout the year to help keep them motivated.
Influence the work place: Employees spend a significant part of their day at work and are presented with wellness-related decisions throughout the day. It’s important to create an environment where the healthy choice is the easy choice. For example, when craving a snack, is there a vending machine that offers healthy alternatives to candy bars and soda? During breaks, is there a walking path or an on-site fitness area with a treadmill? Is it possible to schedule on-site biometric screenings, flu shots, educational seminars or even team-building cooking classes?
Communicate your program and support: Promote your wellness program using traditional channels (lunchroom bulletin boards and flyers), digital channels (email and the intranet), and with “wellness ambassadors.” It’s important to inform and motivate executives and supervisors about the positive role they can play to support and communicate wellness initiatives. Remember to promote not only when you launch your wellness program but multiple times throughout the year so employees are aware of the wellness opportunities.
Evaluate results and solicit input: Evaluate your wellness program annually to assess strengths, weaknesses and progress. Work with your health plan to measure the impact on employee engagement and medical costs. And remember to be flexible and listen to your employees on how to improve wellness offerings for the future.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a culture of wellness, but a strategy using these tips can help employers give their employees the opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle.
Carol Ann Rydahl is a health strategies consultant with UnitedHealthcare of Michigan.