When considering whether to begin a company-wide wellness program, many CEOs and benefit administrators can be overwhelmed and confused with the options available to them. You may wonder what kind of program is right for your company, how much it will cost, how you are going to engage your employees and whether there will be a measurable return on investment (ROI). Often, by working closely with your insurance carrier, you can build a strong wellness program from the ground up.
“Implementing and maintaining a successful corporate wellness program doesn’t have to be difficult,” says Marty Hauser, CEO of SummaCare. “With a little guidance from your insurer, you can successfully begin and manage an effective program that will assist in keeping you and your employees healthy and happy.”
By working closely with your insurer, you can learn tips for overcoming hurdles before beginning your program, ways to engage employees to participate, ideas for implementing effective incentives and even how to determine success metrics — regardless of the size of your program.
Smart Business spoke with Hauser about successful wellness programs that began small and produced big results.
How can a company take the concept of wellness and turn it into an actual program that works for it?
Having an idea of what you want your wellness program to accomplish is one of the most important factors in turning the idea or concept of wellness into reality.
For an example of how this can happen, take Company A, a manufacturer of frozen bakery products. Company A has 113 employees and tried for several years to implement a wellness program before finally finding one that made sense for its culture and staff. After years of informal, sporadic wellness initiatives, Company A decided to create an organized, sustainable wellness movement for employees as a resource for improving their health conditions.
Supported by the co-owner’s belief that he owed his staff information, instruction, incentives and encouragement to help improve the quality of their lives, Company A designed a diverse, low-key and nonjudgmental program to help employees improve their diet, exercise regularly and make more positive lifestyle choices. Company A designed a program that includes a variety of programs and activities for employees to choose from, allowing each employee to participate in those most appealing to him or her, without a requirement for participation or consequence for not participating.
Though initially faced with skepticism from employees and difficulty identifying ways to interest a broad number of people at the same time, once the employees at Company A realized the company was serious and simply trying to guide and support those wishing to improve their health, participation quickly followed. Through the years, Company A has consistently offered new and different activities, formed a wellness committee that has kept in constant contact with staff and asked for suggestions from their employees to keep them engaged. To further encourage participation, Company A came up with an exciting incentive model: assigning each activity in the wellness program a certain number of credits. Once the employee accumulates the required number of annual credits he or she receives a $200 cash bonus.
Today, Company A has what they consider to be a successful program, with happy employees who have maintained healthier lives since the program’s implementation.
Is it possible for a company to quickly implement a successful wellness program?
While gauging the success of a wellness program takes time, it is possible to introduce the idea of wellness at your company and have it catch on quickly, thus turning it into a successful program in as little as a few years.
For example, look at Company B, a local manufacturing company with 180 employees. For six months, Company B considered implementing a wellness program before taking action. Employee absenteeism and unfavorable health, as well as rising insurance premiums, motivated Company B to design a program to not only improve the overall health of its employees, but to encourage early detection and treatment of health conditions.
The program launched as a voluntary participation program, but eventually became an incentive activity/points based program in which wellness activities were offered throughout the year. Employees receive points for every activity in which they participate. Employees then receive a discount, penalty or neither on their biweekly medical payroll deduction based on the points they accumulate during the previous year’s wellness program activities.
In addition to the points program, Company B holds drawings throughout the year in which employees who participate in wellness activities receive prizes. Also, they hold a monthly fruit or vegetable spotlight — and all employees receive that month’s featured item. Employees are provided with access to a nurse who can answer questions, listen to employees, create activities and assist with annual health risk surveys.
Today, Company B maintains and manages a successful wellness program with high employee engagement, thus giving its employees the opportunity to take control of their own health and earn rewards for doing so.
What can an employer do if interested in launching a wellness program?
If you are interested in introducing wellness in your workplace, talk to your insurer to see what kind of program might be right for your employee population. Make sure to communicate what you may have already tried, what has worked and what hasn’t worked, and what your short- and long-term expectations are for the program. Your insurer should be able to help you design a wellness program that is right for you and your employees.
Marty Hauser is the CEO of SummaCare. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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