HR Management & Compliance

Creating wellness programs that work: 6 essential components

Creating a wellness program that works can seem like a daunting task. How do you get employees to participate? How do you keep costs in check and ensure it creates cost savings? You may be surprised to learn that there are only 6 essential components to creating a wellness program that really works.

Wellness Programs that Work: 6 Essential Components

In a recent CER webinar titled “Wellness Programs: Manage Activity, Reduce Costs, and Boost Participation,” Emily Richards outlined for us the 6 essential components of an effective wellness program.

1) Your Wellness Program Must Be Comprehensive and Engaging

The program should be built around individual employee wellness goals, created by each employee. “It needs to be comprehensive because there are a variety of different types of individuals working in your workplace. They are different in both what motivates them, they are different in age, they are different in their ability. Being able to ensure that your program blankets the entire employee population is very critical for success.” Richards explained.

If your program offers a variety of options for unique personalities, goals, and preferences for each employee, then participation expands over time, which in turn drives cultural changes across the entire organization. This will give you sustained momentum throughout the year.

Another way to improve engagement is to offer employee incentives. Find ways to reward employees who maintain or improve their health or make healthy choices. Without employee engagement, you won’t get – nor be able to prove – a good return on investment (ROI). Without that ROI, you are going to have a tough time selling the program to a CFO.

2) Your Wellness Program Must Be Customizable

Every company is different. Therefore, every wellness program should be unique to the company in which it is implemented. Ideally, a great wellness program should be a natural extension of a company’s identity and goals. What works for one company may not work for another. For example, an on-site exercise facility might work well for a small percentage of employees in a large, centralized corporate base, but may be ineffective in a decentralized organization.

Regardless of the details of the program you choose, having a long-term wellness strategy is key to ensure smooth integration and adoption. Your long-term cost savings depend on how many employees actually participate, so be sure to customize your program to your workplace realities to optimize everyone’s opportunity to participate.

3) Your Wellness Program Must Be Quantifiable

If you want to track the effectiveness of your wellness program, you have to be able to measure it. This means that you must have metrics in place from the beginning to track your progress. For example, you could measure things like:

  • Reductions in insurance claim costs
  • Participation levels in various aspects of the program
  • Biometric survey and test results such as blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, or body mass
  • Lifestyle changes such as stress levels, physical activity levels, eating patterns, or tobacco or alcohol use

Always be sure to be HIPAA compliant and keep individual results confidential, of course. The findings at an aggregate level can be useful in deciding where to allocate resources for new or existing programs such as high blood pressure screenings, cancer prevention, anti-smoking, diabetes, etc.

4) Your Wellness Program Must Have the Appropriate Scope and Level of Quality

When dealing with wellness, a company must consider the entire body and mind of their employees. Wellness is not just physical fitness and diet—program administrators should look beyond those elements. Amount of sleep, work/life balance, stress levels, time management, and depression can all impact one’s health and wellness. Even the costs of healthcare itself can be a stress factor. Ensure your program takes into account the big picture and adequately addresses concerns well beyond diet and exercise.

5) Your Wellness Program Must Be Accessible

Convenience matters. There are many reasons people will not use services or facilities—a program should work to eliminate those reasons. To do that you can include a variety of options including both on-site and virtual (online) offerings.

Besides on-site wellness centers, you could consider annual health fairs (focusing on physical, nutritional, financial and spiritual wellness, and providing free health screenings), and providing food vendors that offer health-conscious options.

Some wellness organizations use online resources to deliver wellness messages, but they can also make wellness available on smartphones with apps to increase usage and accessibility. Just be sure to create a healthy work environment and culture – don’t forget about face-to-face interaction. In other words, strike a balance: virtualization is important, but it must include hands-on engagement.

6) Your Wellness Program Must Be Clearly Communicated

Clear explanations and early communication allows time for employees to get involved, ask questions, and prepare for change. That said, the range of services offered can be complex and challenging to communicate. HR staff members are the ideal candidates to communicate the mission of the program and to coordinate activities. They should tailor message to fit the intended audience. Here are some ways to tailor the communications for your organization:

  • Use internal successes to perpetuate additional successes. Studies show people respond to success stories positively. Feature videos of employees’ health success stories.
  • If your organization is competitive, try scorecards for company units in different geographic areas.
  • Some employees might not read as much as others, so you can tailor communications to suit the firm, using videos, graphics, newsletters, intranet portals, fliers, stickers, magnets, and so on.
  • Lead by example. When meeting with new employees or having a conversation, take a walk. Installing bicycle racks, standing desks, or treadmills all can encourage breaks or a stress-reducing work period.

To register for a future webinar, visit CER webinars.

Emily Richards, founder and president of Sade Clarity, oversees business development, directs creative initiatives, and formulates the strategy for Sade’s client base. A fitness guru, marathon runner, and self-proclaimed health nut, Ms. Richards embraces the importance of a life balance in body, mind, and spirit.