Workplace wellness is a hot topic among Human Resources professionals, and the scope of what should be included in an effective wellness program continues to expand. Wellness programs of the past may have consisted of little more than offering annual flu shots or encouraging participants to eat healthier and exercise.

Now, wellness at work is defined much more broadly, and programs may address emotional, mental, social, behavioral, environmental, and financial factors in addition to improving physical health. The modern HR industry is much more likely to think of workplace wellness in terms of their employees’ overall quality of life. Similarly, corporate leaders tend to view wellness programs as an investment in overall employee health rather than merely a cost-control measure.

Why Should I Invest in Workplace Wellness?

The Benefits of Wellness at Work Programs

According to a report from the Rand Institute, approximately half of all employers offer some form of wellness program for their employees. Large employers are more likely to prioritize wellness at work and to have more complex wellness programs. Investing in workplace wellness programs remains popular because these programs work.

First, today’s workplace can have a significant impact on your employees’ physical and mental wellbeing—long hours slouched in front of a computer screen, eye strain, stress, and repetitive movements take their toll. Workplace wellness can be an effective and affordable way to counteract these work hazards. Certainly, preventive care is less costly than an avoidable workplace injury.

Investing in workplace wellness makes financial sense for employers, too. In a much-publicized early study, Harvard researchers found that for every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs, both medical costs and absenteeism costs dropped by about three dollars. That’s an incredible ROI—six dollars saved for every dollar invested in wellness programs.

The more recent report from the Rand Institute is more nuanced, splitting wellness programs into disease management programs and lifestyle management programs. However, this report still shows an ROI of nearly four dollars for every dollar spent, with the majority of savings coming from disease management.

Finally, investing in workplace wellness is no longer about cost-containment only. Employers are discovering the numerous business benefits of onsite care and wellness programs. The dollars invested in these programs contribute to positive corporate culture, productivity, workforce engagement and satisfaction, and business performance. A comprehensive survey conducted by the nonprofit Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) found that over 90-percent of business leaders believe that promoting wellness positively affects productivity and performance. Similarly, most business leaders indicated that they view workplace wellness as a valuable investment in human capital and an important part of their core business strategy.

How to Implement Your Workplace Wellness Program-

What Should Be Included in Your Wellness Program?

Of course, the most progressive wellness program in the world will be ineffective if employees can’t access the program, they don’t want to participate, or if the program doesn’t address the key health issues that your workforce is facing. Employers need to carefully think through what they plan to offer to develop a comprehensive, well-organized wellness program that will maximize their return on investment.

Here are a few tips for creating an effective wellness program:

  • Give someone ownership. There’s nothing worse or less effective than a vague business initiative that has no champion. While many people can and should be involved with your corporate wellness initiatives, it’s important for a person or team to have ownership and be the driving force behind the program.
  • Plan for broad employee outreach and clear messaging. Employees can’t participate in programs they’ve never heard about. How are you going to get the message out to your workforce? Make sure you have a multi-pronged approach to communication and a clear, concise message as you promote your wellness programs.
  • Set your organization up for short and long-term success. We tend to think of wellness programs as lifestyle and behavior modification initiatives only. But that’s only half of the story. Effective employee wellness programs consist of two parts: lifestyle modification and disease management. While lifestyle modification can yield deeper results, it’s also a more long-term investment in your human capital. In the short-term, comprehensive disease management will drive most of your savings and generate more momentum for the program.
  • Get organizational leaders involved. Wellness programs should not be top-down initiatives meant only for your employees. In order for a program to truly succeed, you need buy-in and participation from your entire corporation, including top leaders.
  • Remember, convenience and creativity are key. Your employees are unlikely to participate in an inconvenient program. It’s critical that your organization’s wellness activities are as convenient as possible and easily accessible to all employees. Plan for time during the workday to conduct Health Risk Assessments (HRAs), to give annual flu shots, or to present Lunch & Learns, for example. In addition, get creative about wellness program offerings. Large employers are often able to leverage or reappropriate existing resources to expand their offerings at little to no cost.
  • Consider incentivizing employees to increase engagement. The Rand Report found that incentivizing employees is particularly effective for one-time health events, such as Health Risk Assessments and annual physicals. In general, the most effective incentives have a value of $50 or above.
  • Track your progress. When it comes to understanding the value of your wellness program, gathering more data is better. Look at claims data year-over-year, employee satisfaction surveys, absenteeism reports, productivity reports—and any other data that demonstrates the effectiveness of your program.
  • Solicit employee feedback to improve programs. No matter how well you plan and organize your wellness program, you’re not going to get everything right the first time. Instead of taking a “set it and forget it” approach to wellness, think of it more like an ongoing process. Be sure to have a system in place to ask for employee feedback and implement suggestions. What has been most helpful to them? What else would they like to see offered? Your employees are one of your best sources of information.

Let Proactive MD Manage and Champion Your Corporate Wellness Programs

Managing a large-scale, complex corporate wellness program is difficult, but the results are worth it. If your company doesn’t have anyone in-house equipped to take on the challenge, reach out to Proactive MD for a consultation. Our onsite healthcare model includes a dedicated Patient Advocate who is responsible for patient engagement.

Through Patient Advocacy, we’re able to take both a macro and a micro approach to getting your employees to participate in corporate wellness. Patient Advocates analyze existing claims data to ensure that you’re designing a program that will have the most impact on your workforce. They will also meet one-on-one with your employees to encourage them to complete their Proactive Health Review, conduct employee outreach and solicit feedback to find out what they need, and continually track your progress and suggest improvements.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you maximize your ROI for your onsite healthcare and wellness programs, contact us to request a proposal.