This piece originally ran on EMC Insurance.
Employees spend about a third (or more) of their lives at work. So keeping them safe, healthy, happy and committed to your company is a huge benefit to them, as well as your business. A company wellness program can promote and help achieve these goals. Depending on the program, employees may have access to physical and mental health care, receive assistance for living healthier lives and achieve a positive work-life balance.
Well-designed company wellness programs have been shown to reduce sick leave and disability management costs and may even reduce health care costs. Beyond this financial return on investment (ROI), employers can reap benefits such as increased employee morale and engagement, more successful recruitment and retention, and improved on-the-job performance.
While there are many ways to develop a meaningful wellness program, the following steps are crucial to putting your program into action:
Get management commitment
Time and resources are vital to making a program work well, so you’ll need buy-in from management. Having management on board will help secure funding and allow you to move forward with your ideas. Additionally, support from leaders will inspire others to join in and take the program seriously.
Create a wellness committee
Ask for input from employees before getting your program off the ground. This will help them feel connected and engaged with the program. Select a committed group of workers to help explore and discuss options, present possibilities and carry out the chosen actions. Committee members can also be responsible for promoting the program, planning activities, communicating with management and employees, and facilitating program evaluation.
Committee size will depend on the number of employees and scope of your program. Typically, a committee of 6 to 12 is adequate. Make sure there is representation from various employee shifts and departments. You may also want to consider rotating committee members over time so more employees and fresh ideas can move the program in new directions.
Knowing your claim costs, employee demographics, health trends and attendance records can help you predict what actions will best serve your employees and company. As a starting point, look at some of the most common health issues—tobacco use, obesity, stress and high blood pressure. You can also ask employees to complete a wellness survey. Include questions to help you identify what they want to learn about, as well as how they want to receive information—through gym memberships, on-the-job stretching exercises, seminars, lunch and learn sessions, newsletters, emails or other activities.
Develop a plan
Set specific goals and measurable objectives, establish timelines, designate committee member responsibilities, create a budget and decide how you’ll measure results. Be aware that as your plan unfolds, you’ll need to be flexible. You may need to adapt or switch priorities if requests and experience indicate that a different focus is needed.
Set a plan that balances employee needs (i.e., risk factors) with their wants (i.e., topics of interest). Whatever you choose, be sure it supports employees physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and financially. Select a variety of actions for each priority. For example, if weight loss is a goal, revamp your vending machine to offer more healthy foods, start a lunchtime walking group, reimburse costs for weight loss programs or gym memberships, and start a support group for those trying to lose weight.
Create a supportive environment
Work toward policies and practices that meet your employees’ needs and empowers them to get involved. Offer the support they need to meet their goals and award them when they do. Consider giving acknowledgement in company newsletters or congratulations during a company wellness seminar. Support can also come in the form of financial assistance, such as discounts or reimbursements. And be sure to give encouragement along the way. This can come from your committee, as well as supervisors and leaders in your company.
Evaluate and modify
Regularly assess your program to see what’s working and what’s not, then make changes accordingly. Look to your employees for feedback on possible changes and adjustments. In addition, while it’s valuable to evaluate your ROI through lower claims and insurance costs, your greatest savings may be in fewer absences, greater employee retention and higher productivity.