Developing an Effective Wellness Program for a Better Workplace
Summer is almost over, and soon it will be time to start communicating your company's employee benefits offerings for 2016. If you haven't already, one offering you may want to consider is a company-sponsored wellness program, which has been on the rise over the past several years.
According to the 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, more employers are offering wellness programs than ever before, with close to half of the 1,977 business decision-makers who were surveyed having offered them in 2014, up from 30 percent in 2012.[i]
One upside to offering a corporate wellness program isn't just the increase in employee wellness, but improvement in employee productivity and satisfaction. However, just implementing a wellness program doesn't automatically guarantee your business will start seeing positive results.
Evaluate how successful your existing wellness program has been for both your business and workforce. If it hasn't made a difference to the company or your employees, changes should be made to make it more effective.
Enhance your Existing Wellness Program
Below are six tips to help strengthen your company's wellness program:
- Implement a culture of wellness: Establish a work environment that continuously encourages healthy lifestyle choices for employees. This means more than just participating in a few fitness-related activities as a team. To create a healthier workplace, it's important to consider the total wellness of employees and identify policies, programs and changes that best suit your workplace culture.
For example, you can offer cancer prevention screenings, healthy cafeteria food options, health challenge incentives or a fitness subsidy for employees to help them pay for gym memberships, fitness classes, exercise equipment, etc.
- Endorse your wellness program: As part of the evaluation process, poll employees to see how many are aware of your company's program and taking advantage of it. A one-time communication about the program is not enough.
Start promoting your program through promotional materials so employees can easily learn more about all wellness offerings. To ensure you reach everyone, display these materials in high-traffic areas throughout the office and practice frequent communication through emails and newsletters.
- Expand your wellness program: An effective wellness program should include several different components. Lifestyle programs to help manage stress, weight, healthy sleep habits, blood pressure or tobacco use shouldn't be the only components to your wellness program.
Consider implementing other unconventional, yet effective, components to support those activities like self-help books, paid time off for annual wellness visits, group health programs, a wellness support hotline or partnering with organizations that can provide nutrition and wellness guidance.
- Follow your program's success: To track the success of your wellness program, develop both tangible measurement and regular reporting. These tools can help improve programming and communication as well as help company executives better understand the impact and return on investment of this type of program.
For best results, measure program participation, the number of compensation claims from employees, employee absences, and overall employee satisfaction and engagement with benefits.
- Pair with well-rounded benefits and communications: A recent Aflac survey revealed that employee enrollment in wellness programs is higher at companies that also offer other worksite perks such as financial guidance and education, voluntary benefits and flexible scheduling. Additionally, higher engagement is also linked to strong communications strategies.
The study also revealed companies that increased the frequency of their employee benefits communications in the past year had greater success with their wellness programs.1
- Offer incentives for employees: A healthier lifestyle may not be enough motivation to increase employee engagement. Some workers may need extra motivation such as wellness incentives. To encourage participation from these employees, start offering lower premiums, cash, gift cards, extra paid time off and other rewards.
Successful wellness programs equal happier, healthier workers
By strengthening your wellness program, you'll start noticing the positive effect it can have on your workforce. For instance, according to a recent report from the National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson, companies with strong wellness programs had lower rates of obesity than "low-effectiveness" companies, as well as lower unplanned absence rates (3.3 vs. 4.0 days per year).[ii]
This can boost productivity and reduce absenteeism since according to the CDC, obese employees experience higher levels of absenteeism due to more illnesses than normal-weight employees.[iii] Another advantage to having a wellness program is the positive effect it can have on employee job satisfaction, which can also increase employee retention.
According to a recent survey, 3 in 4 employers that offer wellness programs agree their programs improve worker satisfaction, and employees who participate in these programs report being more satisfied with their jobs than workers who don't participate (70 percent vs. 59 percent).1 Additionally, these workers are less likely to look for new jobs in the next year than employees without company-sponsored wellness programs (46 percent vs. 52 percent).1
Success in the coming year
By being proactive and evaluating your current wellness program now, you can start planning the necessary changes that need to be made to your 2016 corporate wellness program. In turn, this can lead to a more successful year for your company and a better workforce since one key to having happier, more productive employees is helping them take the necessary steps to live healthier lives.
About the Author
Matthew Owenby has more than 15 years of experience in the financial services/HR industry and is , a company with more than 9,500 employees. He is responsible for providing strategic direction for the Human Resources function and executing global initiatives for the corporation.
1 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, a study conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, accessed July 22, 2015, from http://workforces.aflac.com/download/pdf/overview/AWR.2015_AWR_Wellness_Trends_Article.PC.pdf.
[ii] Fast Company, "Do Corporate Wellness Programs Really Boost Productivity?" accessed on July 22, 2015, from http://www.fastcompany.com/3033411/do-corporate-wellness-programs-really-boost-productivity.
[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Workplace Health Promotion," accessed on July 22, 2015