Corporate wellness programs have received a lot of attention over the last several years. In the absence of any substantive legislative change that will help businesses reduce the overhead of health insurance, wellness programs are clearly the most promising solution, positively affecting one of the few variables that companies can influence. Despite that, employees across the country continue to ask: "So why hasn't my company started one?" The need seems obvious.
There are stacks of evidence supporting the enormous impact wellness programs have on reducing healthcare costs, in addition to boosting productivity and improving safety and job satisfaction among employees. It's been shown that even moderate improvements to employee health nets significant savings in both the short and long term. So, again, the question: "What's the hold up?"
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
Many employees point a finger at management, citing the relative "ease" with which millions are spent on product improvement, but nothing for improving employee health at work. Before rallying the village and storming the CEOs office with torches and pitchforks, however, employees should ask how many days they have come to work sick rather than losing pay? How many school plays have been missed because work took a priority?
The human decision process - especially decisions impacting routine or risk - is very complex, and humans are deciding whether or not to spend money on a wellness program. What could be holding up management's decision? Cost? Maybe that's part of it, especially in this economy. Is there no one to champion the program, given that no one has time for anything these days as we are pressured to do more with less?
That could be a factor. Perhaps management doesn't like to think about what will be necessary to initiate and manage a wellness program - it just sounds overwhelming. What if the "health programs" cut into business time? That could be lost productivity. Maybe this is all just a temporary situation?
Soon the economy will improve and legislation will pass to make healthcare more affordable. That's possible, right? This probably sounds like management avoiding the issue and making excuses, but it's more likely anxiety over forced change, which is something everyone experiences.
Living in Glass Houses
Let's consider another scenario. Mary has just returned from the doctor's office where she was told her health is at risk due to her weight. The doctor provided a prescription for high blood pressure, referred her to an exercise consultant and told Mary that she needed to start walking around her block the very next day - hopefully getting up to a mile in the next several weeks. He also gave her the name and number of a nutritionist who would help revamp her diet to hopefully reverse the direction her health was headed: toward heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
Wake up call for Mary, right? She is a changed woman the next day, for sure? Not necessarily. Mary, much like management, hesitates. She is confronted with required, involuntary action. She didn't initiate the change; she is being forced into it. That creates a very different reaction to the doctor's recommendations. Immediately, she focuses on obstacles, such as how much it will cost. She is certain she has no time to walk around the block, let alone an entire mile.
Dieting has never worked. She wonders if watching what she eats for a few weeks will improve her tests? Would that be enough? Finally, the magnitude of the change overwhelms her and she can't visualize ever reaching her goal, so why start? Mary received plenty of information from the doctor proving the value of exercise. She was told clearly what she needed to do, but she can't reconcile the mental dissonance with her physical need.
This is a common challenge when we are told to do something, as opposed to deciding on our own that we need to make changes. There isn't much difference between the struggle Mary goes through in accepting her situation, and management's need to acknowledge that it has very few options to control healthcare costs. Mary and management need help. They need guidelines from someone with experience. They need tough love. They need results. Mary needs a personal trainer - so does the company.
A corporate wellness consultant does everything for a company that a personal trainer does for an individual. She becomes a partner to the company, focused on the same goals. She creates a customized plan, based on an employee health needs assessment and taking into consideration the company's culture. The consultant must also identify the quickest path to success, no matter how small that success may be. Losing five pounds can make someone feel like a different person.
Cutting average sick days by two or reducing claims by 2 percent does the same for a company. Small success fuels the desire to achieve more.Just like a trainer will tell a client on what to expect - the days of feeling hungry, the initial exhaustion, the soreness and general adjustment to an altered routine - the corporate wellness consultant makes the company aware of the program's long-term investment.
Change is gradual, especially when it is group-oriented, but once it starts rolling downhill, the benefits pile up in the form of reduced claims, happier employees and improved productivity. Getting started is the most intimidating challenge for a corporation - it's like the first time someone steps into a gym. Professional assistance is critical. Without a corporate wellness consultant, companies often become impatient, citing the lack of immediate ROI (e.g., low employee participation or a minimal reduction in rates) as the reason to shut down the program.
Sound familiar? How often do people throw up their hands and quit after a week because an exercise routine, or new diet, is just "not working?" Companies need to find ways to make it work. Too much rides on a wellness program to give only a partial effort. It's obvious, based on rising healthcare costs, that this isn't a matter of "losing a few corporate pounds." The condition will become chronic and life threatening for companies across America if something isn't changed quickly.
About The Author
Catherine A. Rudat is one of the nation's leading Health and Wellness Experts, with nearly a decade of experience in the field. Catherine recently earned the 2010 California Fit Business 'GOLD' award for one of her clients-her second in a row-recognizing the wellness program she developed as "the best well-rounded Wellness program." Based in Newport Beach, California, Catherine's company specializes in all aspects of health and wellness including Fitness, Health & Nutrition, Safety, Stress Management, and Personal Development, to name a few.
Catherine Rudat's Wellness Corporation provides cutting edge programs to businesses intent on controlling healthcare costs through the development and maintenance of an objectives-based employee wellness program. The company provides dedicated, hands-on consulting and support to help businesses research, develop and implement customized programs designed to improve employees' health, productivity, career satisfaction and safety awareness.
The company also sets itself apart with exceptional customer service, a "long term investment" approach to client relationships and proven program success. For a complimentary assessment to start an employee wellness program, or to evaluate an existing program against benchmark criteria based on the award-winning program used by Catherine Rudat's Wellness Corporation, call (714) 956-6166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will also work with your insurer to determine what factors can improve your company's experience rating and what the insurer can offer to assist with that. Get control of your health costs, provide significant value to your employees and bolster your productivity and staff engagement-TODAY!