Business of Well-being

How do Corporate Wellness Programs Work?

How do Corporate Wellness Programs Work?

Wellness Programs run the gamut. The most casual and inexpensive may include only online information and the occasional newsletter.More common programs include HRAs (health risk assessments), some recommendations, and newsletters. They may also offer online support for diet management, or motivational tips for fitness.

The most robust combine all of these elements and add, among other things, employee assistance programs, nutritional counseling, one-on-one coaching, on-site exercise programs, online support for exercising and nutrition, preventive care incentives, and incentives for desired behaviors. The possibilities are endless.

The main elements contained in any wellness program are as follows:Identification of risk factors. This identification can be achieved through HRAs, physicals, surveys, or any number of methodologies. The identification will generally stay private between the employee and whoever or whatever gathers the data.

The employer is not privy to this information. Recommendations to reduce risk factors. These recommendations may be generalized, or they may be customized to the employee, if they are arrived at through online systems or consultation with a healthcare provider.Biological statistics.

Some programs augment a health risk assessment with a basic health profile including body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, etc. Goals and Incentives. To ensure achieving some kind of successful change in behaviors and the resultant health-related statistics, employees should be given, or should establish for themselves, some sort of goal.  

The goal can be to lose a certain number of pounds, to reduce cholesterol, to reduce blood pressure, etc. Incentives can be offered either for reaching the goal, or if the goal is not shared with the employer for privacy reasons, the incentive can be given for the employee taking the actions that would generally lead to the reaching of the goal.  

Conveniently, many goals can be reached by the simple tasks of stopping smoking, eating healthier, exercising more, and taking steps to manage stress. So there can be some generic activity goals that will qualify employees to receive incentives without the employer knowing too much detail about what their goals are Participation.  

The program will be only as effective as the employees allow it to be. As mentioned earlier, support from management (from the owner down) will go a long way to promoting employee participation. The adoption of a wellness culture where it becomes clear that a healthy, active, vital and vibrant workforce is a priority will also encourage participation.

Any number of incentives for participation may be utilized as well. Contests, challenges, and active marketing of the program to the employees will also increase participation. Multimedia support. It's important that information, services and support for the program be made available to employees at times and in ways that are convenient for them.  

If you have an employee who would like to seek nutritional assistance at 9 p.m. online, it's helpful to have a program that has an interactive nutritional guide available on the website.  If you have employees who prefer to read hard copy, printed materials should be available. Hotlines for consultation with a healthcare provider for those who like to speak with someone are also available.

Online videos for education or exercise can be helpful to employees who are on the road or do most of their participation at home during off hours. Face-to-face support for nutritional counseling or exercise/fitness coaching can be invaluable in keeping employees engaged, educated and accountable.Management commitment.

All successful wellness programs include involvement and commitment by management, from the top down. Some of the less common variables that can be added include:

  • Establishment of a wellness committee or wellness program leader
  • Lunch and learns
  • Wellness library
  • Supporting community health efforts

What's the relationship between wellness programs and your health insurance company? Some programs are offered by health insurance companies. Others are provided by unrelated vendors. Sometimes health insurance companies work with outside vendors to deliver certain services.

If your health insurance company doesn't provide a wellness program of any kind, you will want to discuss potential future reductions in premium with your agent. An insurance company that does not support wellness programs may not be willing to provide a discount. If that's the case, you may want to consider moving carriers to one that is more in line with your priorities.

If you have a self-insured health plan, your third party administrator (TPA) may provide services, or may be able to refer you to qualified vendors. Or, you may want to shop around for a vendor that's suitable, and then connect them with your TPA for administration. Some workers compensation companies also offer loss prevention consulting and activities.

Injury prevention activities can include such things as stretching at the desk to prevent carpal tunnel or back problems. Training on proper lifting, stress management, ergonomic workstations, proper posture, etc. can all minimize repetitive stress injuries and musculoskeletal injuries.

About the Author

"Training veteran Greg Justice didn't just get in on the leading edge of an emerging industry 20-some years ago, he helped create it. Opening the first personal training studio in Kansas City, Justice has, over the years, laid the groundwork for countless others to follow. Being a trailblazer, however, takes a willingness to plow into the thicket of uncertainty.  

It means forging ahead with nothing but faith. As one of the true leaders of the personal training industry, Justice now has the benefit of hindsight and the insight of experience, both of which he eagerly offers up to the hundreds of trainers he has mentored."- Shelby Murphy Personal Fitness Professional magazine, Journey to Success, May 2009 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,,, 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.

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→