Employee wellness plans have been gaining popularity in recent years, and with good reason: they can benefit both employees and employers.
An employee wellness program is simply a program that intends to promote the health and well-being of employees. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the key is that the program has a goal of improving employee health.
The benefits for employees are fairly obvious:
- The potential for improved health
- Support in the form of encouragement, goals, or even team activities
- A focus on healthier choices
- Maybe a reduction in cost
But the benefits for employers are sometimes overlooked. This is unfortunate because employers actually stand to benefit a great deal as well. Here are just a few examples:
- Improved employee health can mean fewer absences for illness and higher employee productivity levels.
- Investing in employees can improve employee morale. Over time, this can even reduce turnover.
- Healthier employees often cost less to insure over time.
These benefits are there regardless of company size or industry. Every organization can benefit.
Starting an Employee Wellness Program
Starting an employee wellness program can be quite simple. (Of course, it can be quite involved too, depending on how far the employer wants to go with the program.) Here are some examples of easy ways to get started focusing on employee health:
- Provide health screenings. Examples include blood pressure or Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings.
- Provide food fact sheets. Simply having access to more information can allow employees to make healthier choices.
- Start employee fitness groups. Examples include walking groups or even sport team creation to compete in local leagues.
- Conduct individual health-risk assessments (i.e., questionnaires that help assess overall health and risk factors at an individual level). These are usually administered by a third party and come with personalized reports on health risk factors.
- Give away health-related promotional items. Examples include pedometers or water bottles.
- Remove on-site food that does not promote good health; replace it with healthier options. This can be implemented in many areas, such as vending machines, cafeterias, catering for meetings, break room options, etc.
- Provide information on the health benefits of quitting smoking.
- Distribute other wellness-oriented communications, such as health-related newsletters.
- Conduct training sessions on health or wellness-related topics.
- Allow longer lunch breaks to give time for exercise.
- Provide discounts on health insurance or otherwise reduce the cost.
Of course, employee wellness programs can also be implemented on a much broader scale, too. Here are some more in-depth examples:
- Adding an on-site fitness center or partnering with a nearby fitness center to offer free employee memberships; and
- Sponsoring employee contests. (Be sure to follow the latest guidelines under the Affordable Care Act when it comes to participation and rewards.)
Be aware that there are some rules governing wellness programs, particularly when a bonus or discount is based on an actual change in health status (e.g., lower blood pressure or cholesterol) as opposed to simply participating in an activity (e.g., a health screening).
No matter what type of employee wellness programs you implement, be sure to have a plan to communicate the program details to employees. Getting employees excited and involved is the first step to gaining the benefits. Focus on the benefits for the employees in all communications and make it easy to participate, even offering incentives where appropriate.
About Bridget Miller:
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.