It’s no secret that health care costs are constantly on the rise. It’s also no secret that workplace wellness programs help favorably impact health care costs. Many studies show that a successful wellness program can lower absenteeism, enhance job performance and improve morale all while attracting talented employees to the organization.
The financial evidence supporting the ROI (return on investment) for wellness programs is growing. Recent studies show that the medical care costs for people with chronic diseases account for more than 75 percent of the nation’s total medical care costs.
In addition to incurring the direct costs of higher premiums, employers lose more than 39 million employee workdays each year due to obesity-related illnesses. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with diabetes lose 8.3 days per year from work, accounting for 14 million disability days, compared to 1.7 days for people without diabetes.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic of all is the ROI achieved by employers who invest in employee wellness programs. On average, employers are saving between $1.50 to almost $5 in premiums for every dollar they invest in these programs. The key to realizing the savings is getting employees to act.
“Once a company begins a wellness program they will discover a range of employee participation levels,” says Renay Gontis, the communications coordinator for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. “Some will already be engaged in physical activity and healthy behaviors, and your program will only reinforce and enhance their health behaviors. On the other end of the spectrum, some employees simply will not engage in wellness programs, no matter what the company does.”
The remaining (and largest) group of employees includes people who are at various stages of readiness to improve their health. These employees need the right type of programming and motivation. Which is where an effective and impactful wellness program comes in, Gontis says.
Smart Business spoke to Gontis about successful wellness programs, how to implement them and how to get employees involved with them.
What key factors influence employee health behaviors?
People are always looking for ways to incorporate wellness into their daily lives, which is why television is filled with quick fixes. However, a successful program will promote wellness and keep the idea of healthy living in front of employees on an ongoing basis.
But, employees have different reasons for engaging in wellness activities. To improve the overall results of your program, it is important to identify these factors and develop programs to meet the majority of your employees’ needs and wants. One of the ways these factors can be identified is through an internal employee feedback survey. A company can also use this opportunity to ask employees what type of on-site and off-site activities they would enjoy.
Most employees want to know how the wellness program will fit into their current schedule and if programs will be offered during or after work. Enhance participation in your wellness programs by helping employees develop goals, whether on an individual basis or as a group. You may want to create teams so employees have a support system as they take on personal and group wellness initiatives.
How can a company’s work environment support wellness?
A common error is to launch a wellness program that promotes healthy eating and exercise while still offering doughnuts during morning meetings or ordering monthly birthday cakes. Simply, practice what you preach. Instead of doughnuts, offer healthy granola bars and fruit. In place of your typical birthday cake, offer a fruit pizza or a trifle filled with fruit and low-fat yogurt and angel food cake. Many other creative healthy food alternatives are available on the Internet.
How can a company continually motivate its employees?
While some employees are motivated by the idea of being healthy, others need an incentive such as an award, recognition, monetary compensation, paid time off, etc. A wellness team (subject to management’s approval) should offer a variety of incentives to have the most impact. An incentive does not have to be costly to offer motivation, so be creative as you develop incentives for your work environment.
What worksite activities or programs can promote wellness?
Innovative, low-cost activities are simple. The following list includes examples of activities that can enhance your company’s wellness program:
- Provide healthy eating reminders and prompts to employees via e-mail, posters and/or payroll stuffers.
- Create an employee cookbook filled with healthy recipes.
- Allow access to on-site and off-site gyms and recreational activities before, during and after work hours.
- Offer flexible work hours to allow for physical activity during the day.
- Host ‘walk-and-talk’ meetings.
A company should evaluate its wellness program on an annual basis so the wellness team can make strategic plans for subsequent years. A wellness program will quickly become stale if the same activities are repeated year after year. It is important to be creative and implement new ideas.
Renay Gontis is the communications coordinator for JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.