There are many benefits to employer sponsored wellness programs, both for the employer and the employee population. The benefits include:
- Lower healthcare costs
- Improved employee health behaviors
- Satisfying an employee’s desire to be healthier
- Increased productivity
- Improved morale
A great starting point for any wellness program can be:
A - Health Risk Assessment
A simple health risk assessment (HRA) can be a low-cost starting point for many wellness programs. These can be completed in an online format, at the primary care physician’s office or by hand at an onsite wellness screening. The value of these HRA’s are many. The HRA results are a great starting point for dialogue with the primary care physician and often contain comparisons to national benchmarks. This gives the employee an opportunity to gauge areas of need and begin to create lifestyle changes that may improve the HRA results.
B - Biometric Screening
Biometric screenings (blood draw) can be performed at the primary care physician’s office and are usually included in the annual well visit. However, many employees often do not maintain a relationship with a primary care doctor and as a result these screening do not get completed on a regular basis. Employee sponsored biometric screenings can help close this gap. Employer sponsored biometric screenings can take place at a local lab or at an onsite employer sponsored event. By reducing the barriers to access these services, the utilization of these services will increase and become a vital first step in changing unhealthy behaviors. The results should be maintained in a secure portal providing year over year results to document the improvements made and reenforcing the positive consequences of these behavior modifications.
C - Ongoing Education
The success or failure of wellness programs typically resides in the wellness team’s ability to generate participation in the various wellness offerings. A strategic partnership between the company’s culture builders and their respective wellness vendor partners is a key component to ensure the success of any wellness initiative. Communications should be an ongoing part of all company wide communications and tap into an individual company’s brand, employee demographic and align well with all current initiatives. The goal of any wellness program is to gain momentum and interest amongst the member population while maintaining a positive trend for long term utilization. This is best accomplished by influential leaders promoting the programs, education campaigns that are strategic and ongoing coupled with incentives that equal the effort required to spur participation.
Employee sponsored wellness initiatives have been around for over thirty years. There are many studies that attest to these programs’ probability of success and an equal amount of statistical data that shows they are not as effective as once thought. Moving beyond using empirical data alone to justify the financial investment in wellness initiatives, it’s time for a focus on employees well-being to be the driving force behind wellness programs.
Designing and managing an employee wellness program is an important step in improving the health and productivity of employees while potentially improving the overall cost of employer-provided health care. Wellness programs ROI should be evaluated over a three-to-five-year period so that there is enough data to evaluate the individual wellness components, and it is equally important that employee engagement be a part of that evaluation.