Many small and medium-size companies wish to create an effective wellness program like their larger competitors, but due to budget concerns and lack of personnel in the Human Resources Department, have not started their own wellness program. It is not as difficult as one might think.
Here are some guidelines on how to create an effective wellness program:
Management Support of Wellness is Step One
Gaining management support for the implementation of a wellness program is the first step. As senior management is all about the financial success of the company, explaining how the wellness program will improve the company’s financial picture is a good place to start. Read the study on wellness programs completed by the Wellness Council of America. Explain how for every $1 spent on wellness programs, there was a $3 reduction in the cost of the health insurance program. If management is still not sold after learning the wellness program has an ROI of 3 for 1, an article published in Forbes states “According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 75% of the employers’ health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.”
There is a similar correlation in workers compensation cost as healthier employees have fewer accidents, and when they do have an accident, they return to work sooner. This was supported by a combined 56 studies on worksite wellness programs. Per the American Journal of Health Promotion, there was a 32% reduction in workers compensation.
Form a Wellness Committee
After gaining the support and participation of senior management in the creation of a wellness program, form a wellness committee. Whether electing to utilize an outside company that has a wellness program already structured that can be implemented quickly or deciding to build your own company wellness program, the involvement of additional personnel from various departments will expand the ideas and ensures the success of the wellness program. Broad representation of the wellness committee will be drawn from human resources, finance, risk management, safety, union, senior management, and production. You can also invite volunteers from any department within the company. The wider the variety of specialties the better.
Establish Wellness Benchmarks
The goals and objectives of the wellness program should be the first order of business for the wellness committee. By establishing benchmarks, you will be able to measure the success of the wellness program. The primary reason companies abandon wellness programs is the failure to have benchmarks showing the success of the wellness program. Some benchmarks that can be considered include:
- health care cost
- employee retention rate
- employee participation (percentage) in the wellness program
- reduction in the number of workers compensation claims
- reduction in overall workers compensation cost
Employee Involvement Is Essential
The wellness program should not be based solely on the ideas of the wellness committee. Employee interest and involvement are essential to the success of the wellness program. Obtain the input of the employees themselves in what they want to see in the wellness program. An anonymous survey, whether online or on paper, can be used to obtain employee input. Some categories that can be considered for inclusion in the survey for the wellness program include:
- diet and nutrition
- weight loss solo and weight loss groups
- exercise equipment
- walking solo /walking groups
- muscle toning
- reduction in blood pressure
- reduction in cholesterol level
- reduction in body mass index (BMI)
- cessation of smoking
- cessation of illicit drugs
- cessation of alcohol abuse
- healthier food options in company cafeteria/snack machines
- on-site flu shots
- hand sanitizers and other sanitizing items in a public area
- ergonomics at work and home
- seat belt use
- safe driving
- pamphlets and posters reminding employees of health topics ( pamphlets on cancer screenings)
- vision screenings provided on-site (mandatory for all employees who drive on duty)
- yoga classes before/after work hours
In addition to these topics, leave three or four blank lines on your survey for the employees to suggest their own wellness topics and concerns they would like to know more about or to have assistance with.
Implement and Promote Wellness Quickly
Once you have established the employees’ wellness program interest, implement and promote quickly to increase your odds of creating a successful wellness program. This can be done in a variety of ways including:
- provide non-smokers with a $5 per week credit on their health insurance program
- provide employees with a BMI under 30 with a $3 per week credit on their health insurance program
- a $6 per week credit for the employees with a BMI under 26
- provide pamphlets on wellness topics
- have posters on wellness issues
- offer “lunch and learn” on wellness topics
- organize group walks before work/after work/lunch time
- have wellness calendars
- schedule on-site flu clinic (ask a nearby medical clinic for a group rate discount or inquire if the health insurance carrier will pay for it)
Give Enough Time to Realize Impact
After implementation of the wellness program, it is important to give the program enough time to have an impact. The above-mentioned benchmarks should be established on the first day of the wellness program, and the results measured after one, two and, three years. Evaluate what has worked and what has not. A repeat survey asking the employees who participated their impression of the wellness program is a good way to get additional feedback. Also, a survey for the employees who have not participated in the wellness program asking why they do not participate can provide insights on ways to improve the wellness program.
By establishing and creating a successful wellness program, you will improve the financial picture of your company, reduce absenteeism, reduce work comp claims, reduce health insurance claims and improve employee morale. It will also reduce your workload if you deal with human resources issues or workers compensation.
Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the co-author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact:.
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