By now, perhaps you're flirting with the idea that you may actually need a wellness program; that perhaps it could save you money in the long run, but you're still unsure whether you want to move forward. You're not alone. There are some common objections to implementing a wellness program, so let's review and overcome them.
1. A Wellness Program is Too Expensive.
Programs can cost as little as $5 per employee. This type of program will consist largely of newsletter type informational support. No high-tech interactive programs, no screenings, no one-on-one coaching. Will this type of program do any good? Maybe. If your employees take the time to read the periodical information, they can benefit from various helpful tips to improve their health.
A mid-range program will cost perhaps $35 per employee per year. Keeping in mind again the $2,000 - $2,800 you lose for each employee operating at reduced productivity, an investment of $35 per employee doesn't seem like much, does it? If you can get just one or two employees on track with a mid-range program that offers various information, several activities, and some interactive support, you will be well ahead of the game.
A top-drawer program might cost over $100 per employee per year. These programs may include screenings, personal coaching, nutritional advice, as well as interactive programs, wellness libraries, and periodical information.
2. A Wellness Program Would Take too Long
Not counting the time you expect your employees to invest in wellness activities (and the time you expect to invest in yourself) much of the time spent regarding a program has to do with its initial establishment. Conveniently, many wellness providers can handle a lot of the heavy lifting for you, in terms of surveying employees, summarizing and interpreting survey results, recommending program structures and options, etc.
So although there is a lot of planning to be done, you do not have to do it all yourself. Additionally, you will need to invest some time in determining what constitutes an adequate return on investment for the program, and what metrics you will use to measure them.
Once you have identified those two critical items, you will need to spend some time in the future evaluating your program. Again, your wellness program provider could provide services that will relieve you of the obligation to determine whether goals are being met. Only you, however, are suited to review results and determine if they are meeting the return on investment you have targeted. How much time does this take?
That depends on how much support you get from your provider, how many employees you have, and what kind and number of metrics you are measuring. It could take as little as an hour of review with your provider annually. Or it could be something you want your human resources manager to look at and report on monthly or quarterly, if you want to keep closer tabs on progress and participation.
To keep this time obligation in perspective, think about the amount of time you currently spend dealing with absenteeism, turnover and disciplinary issues in your company, and how much less time you will be spending once your wellness program takes hold. An investment of a few hours a year or quarter in maintaining a well-planned program will net significant returns.
3. How do I Know the Wellness Program Will Work?
In the end, you cannot be absolutely certain that the wellness program will work until you implement it and look back a year or two down the road and see how much better your staff is performing and feeling. However, evidence abounds that a well-planned program is extraordinarily effective.
If you have the bad luck of having a few chronically ill people in your company who refuse to lift a finger to help themselves become healthier, no amount of wellness programs in the world will help you. However, most employers have a combination of people who are healthy, those who are middle-of-the-road but motivated to improve, those who are less healthy and will consider taking baby steps to improve, and those who are hard-core resistant to doing anything more at work than they absolutely must to collect a pay check.
A range of behavioral methods may be applied to get the last group to participate in anything remotely related to a company benefit, especially one that requires their active engagement. Many will work. However, if this last group comprises only 10 percent of your workforce, you have a good probability of getting some participation out of the remaining 90 percent.
If you do, you will see phenomenal results. Remember that on an average, less than 25 percent of the employee workforce participates once a week or more in a wellness program. Yet the employers who have that level of participation say they get back between $3 and $5 for every dollar they invested in the program.
4. It'll Take Too Much Effort to get a Wellness Program Up and Running
Again, here's where careful choice of vendor is critical. If you don't have the staff resources or the energy reserves to put in to really digging in to establishing a program, interview only those vendors that can do leg work for you. You'll find that if you go online and google "wellness programs" you'll have a good list of potential providers to interview very quickly.
Interviewing a few vendors is a good idea, but if you find that you don't even have tolerance for that process, just pick a vendor that offers programs customizable to your size of organization, and then let them do the work of figuring out how best you can proceed from there. The provider can then take over the complex and tedious tasks related to surveying employees, establishing baselines, coordinating with your healthcare insurance company, and so on.
Now that you know all the reasons a company really needs to consider implementing a wellness program, and all the things that don't work, next month, I'll talk about ways to make a meaningful change in the workplace, and employees' health and productivity.
About the Author
Greg Justice, MA opened AYC Health & Fitness, Kansas City's Original Personal Training Center, in May 1986. He has personally trained more than 40,000 one-on-one sessions. Today, AYC specializes in corporate wellness and personal training. Greg holds a master's degree in HPER (exercise science) (1986) from Morehead State University, Morehead, KY and a bachelor's degree in Health & Physical Education (1983) from Morehead State University, Morehead, KY.
Greg is also an AFAA certified personal trainer (CPT). He has worked with athletes and non-athletes of all ages and physical abilities and served as a conditioning coach at the collegiate level. He also worked with the Kansas City Chiefs, during the offseason, in the early 1980's.
He has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than a quarter of a century as a club manager, owner, personal fitness trainer, and corporate wellness supervisor where he worked with more than 60 corporations. Greg writes articles for many international publications and websites including Exercise & Health, IDEA Fitness Journal, American Fitness Magazine, Protraineronline.com, Fitcommerce.com, Personal Trainer University, and has a monthly column called "Treadmill Talks" in Personal Fitness Professional (PFP) magazine.
He has authored a book titled "Lies & Myths about Corporate Wellness" and has been a contributing author for two other books. He currently serves at the President of the Association of Professional Personal Trainers (APPT). Greg was an adjunct professor of exercise science at Avila University and currently serves on the faculty of Personal Trainer University.
He mentors and instructs trainers interested in Corporate Wellness through his Corporate Boot Camp System class. He developed this course because of the need of CEOs and HR Professionals for achieving a means of positive, effective, and lasting change toward more healthy and productive employees. His system is tested and proven and combines the three major areas that business needs to address if they are to see a return on their employee benefits investment.