HR Management & Compliance

Healthy Employees Make Healthy Businesses

In yesterday’s Advisor, we explored a recent survey that suggested that wellness programs help your employees stay engaged and productive. Today we’ll take a look at a few benefits for creating a wellness program and the basic steps it takes to start one in your workplace.

Comprehensive Workplace Wellness Programs

The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides a grant program to assist small businesses that provide comprehensive workplace wellness programs. Grants will be awarded to eligible employers to provide their employees with access to new workplace wellness initiatives. The grants provide $200 million over a 5-year period.

Eligible employer. An eligible employer is an employer that:

  • Employs fewer than 100 employees who work 25 hours or more per week, and
  • Did not have a workplace wellness program as of March 23, 2010 (date of ACA’s enactment).

The ACA requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop program criteria that are based on research and best practices. A comprehensive workplace wellness program must be made available to all employees and must include:

  • Health awareness initiatives (including health education, preventive screenings, and health risk assessments);
  • Efforts to maximize employee engagement (including mechanisms to encourage employee participation);
  • Initiatives to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices (including counseling, seminars, online programs, and self-help materials); and
  • Supportive environment efforts (including workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity, and improved mental health).

Employers may submit applications that include a proposal for a program that meets the criteria and requirements as described in the ACA and developed by the Secretary.

Launch and Communicate the Wellness Plan

To help make the wellness program as effective as possible, make sure the program launch includes these three elements:

  • Get senior management involved. As noted above, a wellness program will succeed only if senior management is part of the process and supports the initiative. Have senior management speak at a kickoff event, or perhaps even challenge employees to a contest to see if they can reach certain goals before senior managers meet those goals.
  • Play to the audience. Remember that effective wellness programs are aimed at the vast middle ground of the employee population, those employees who are generally healthy but who have one or two problem areas and are considered a medium risk. For most workplaces, that encompasses approximately 80 percent of the workforce. Also be sure to keep in mind and address the health needs of employees’ family members and dependents.
  • Make it fun. Generate excitement for wellness by making the launch activities enjoyable. Some workplaces choose to launch their wellness programs with a health fair. If a health fair is the kickoff activity, make sure it is well-organized so that it will run smoothly.