Putting wellness to work for you Featured

7:00pm EDT December 26, 2007

Employers are constantly faced with rising health care costs. As a result, companies across the world are beginning to implement workplace wellness programs to help favorably impact health care costs.

Studies have shown that a successful wellness program can lower absenteeism, enhance job performance and improve morale, while attracting talented employees to the organization.

People are always looking for ways to incorporate wellness into their daily lives, which is why television is filled with quick fixes. A successful program will promote wellness and keep the idea of healthy living in front of the employees on an ongoing basis.

Smart Business spoke to Renay Wolfrays, the communications coordinator of JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice, about how your company can develop a successful wellness program.

What should an employer expect when starting a wellness program?

An employer should not expect to see immediate return on investment upon implementation of a workplace wellness program. However, some changes, such as improved morale, will be more evident in the beginning. Changes such as reduced absenteeism and reduced health care costs will permeate over time.

A company should expect a trial workplace wellness program to be in effect for at least three years before beginning to see measurable results. A wellness program should be re-evaluated annually to determine what improvements, if any, should be made.

Who in the company should run the work-place wellness program?

A wellness team should be formed and/or a professional wellness coordinator should be engaged to ensure dedication to implementing and promoting the workplace wellness program. If you choose to form a wellness team, be sure it is motivated and enthusiastic about promoting healthy living. A team can easily self-destruct if it is not confident the wellness program is important to management as well as the overall operation of the company.

How do you develop a successful program?

It is important to include employees in the process. Before developing the wellness program, the wellness team should survey the employees to solicit their input and feedback. The survey should ask leading questions, such as ‘What would motivate you to participate in a workplace wellness program?’ The survey results will provide valuable information to the employer and wellness team when constructing the workplace wellness program.

Goals should be established for the wellness program on an annual basis. The goals should be easily tracked and moderately easy to reach. If unreachable, employees can become discouraged and less likely to participate in workplace wellness programs. Once the goals have been defined, detailed information should be provided to the employees explaining the workplace wellness program. The wellness team should continually promote the work-place programs and ‘coach’ employees to get involved.

How does an employer handle opposition?

Wellness programs have the ability to impact some, if not all, of the risk factors associated with preventable illnesses; employees, however, may not always work toward that objective. An employer can offer cost-effective incentives that have been identified in the employee wellness survey. An employer should consider contests that offer monetary rewards, vacation days and more. A company should not limit itself; it can offer a variety of incentives and benefits within a set budget.

It is important to remember that a strong workplace wellness program will not be developed overnight. A company should be continually working to improve its program.

Employees will embrace a wellness program that challenges them both physically and mentally. Increased participation can be expected if the employer offers incentives. The employer must also ensure the program is well organized and promoted so the employees are constantly aware of the wellness opportunity available at their workplace.

“Seventy percent of today's illnesses are related to lifestyle and, therefore, preventable.”

RENAY WOLFRAYS is the communications coordinator of JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. Reach her at (412) 456-7011 or Renay.wolfrays@jrgadvisors.net.