How Employee Wellness Programs Work
Employee wellness programs can be as diverse as the companies that offer them. Employees are likely to be able to choose whether or not to participate, unlike with healthcare insurance programs that may be mandatory. Employees might carry out healthy behaviors at home or at work, attend health fairs, or sign up for smoking cessation programs.
Considerations when Starting a Program
You need to tailor your own worksite wellness program to your needs, but taking a look at some common steps can help guide the planning process.
· Conduct a Health Risk Appraisal (HRA) to find common employee health risks, such as obesity, low use of seatbelts, high levels of stress, or low physical activity levels. This helps develop targets and objectives for the program, which helps guide the components it will have. It also provides a baseline for later evaluation of the program to see whether it is working. The HRA can also be used to recruit employees to participate by showing them that they are at risk based on their HRA results.
· Form a planning committee to establish goals, and develop goals and programs to meet them. A wellness committee can include employers, to encourage ownership of the program, and might include about 1 member per 50 employees.
· Designate wellness professionals to take the lead. These might be external professionals who are trained in screening techniques, such as measuring blood pressure and administering surveys. They might also coach participants through the program. Since wellness professionals can be expensive to hire for long-term follow-up, a smartphone app that acts as a health coach can be a more feasible option that still gets results.
· Expand the program by marketing it to employees to raise awareness, and incentivizing participation.
Sample Characteristics of Employee Wellness Programs
Companies can piece together a program that works for them. These are some examples of decisions they can make.
· Getting an outside company and/or consultants to design and/or run the program or parts of it.
· Providing financial or reward incentives for signing up, maintaining participation and/or achieving milestones such as losing 10 lb. or lowering blood pressure by 10 mmHg.
· Paying for memberships to local gyms, or setting aside space in the workplace for exercise equipment that is available for employees to use.
· Encouraging “walk-and-talk” meetings, stretch breaks, and lunchtime or afternoon walks or group fitness classes.
· Providing employees with health coaching apps, such as Lark, that are low-cost to the employer and encourage employees to adopt healthy eating patterns and increase physical activity.
· Offering smoking cessation, weight loss programs, and employee challenges to meet goals.
· Hosting an annually health fair, alone or together with other companies, that offers hypertension, diabetes, and other screenings, educational materials on healthy behaviors and awareness of common health conditions such as diabetes, and/or promotions from vendors such as health food companies, fitness centers, and massage or spa companies.
· Improving food choices in the workplace by replacing soda with water in vending machines, providing fresh fruit and other healthy snacks to employees, and increasing nutritious options in workplace cafeterias.