Before Jumping into Wellness Programs, Consider the Pitfalls

Wellness programs sound like a great idea to improve employees’ health status, minimize absenteeism, and generally improve your workplace. Yesterday we looked at some simple ways to introduce wellness programs at your office. However, it’s not all sun salutations and stress breaks. Here are some basic pitfalls that sometimes make a wellness program a little shaky:

Beware of competitions. Be careful about employee contests that involve weight loss or other wellness goals. Not everyone needs to lose weight, others may struggle with eating disorders, and still more will feel very uncomfortable discussing their weight challenges in public. Ensure that all programs are sensitive to the individuals participating, and do not disclose personal information.

Ensure privacy. Speaking of privacy, be aware of the use of personal health data gathered from your wellness program. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) takes personal information very seriously. Personal health information collected by wellness programs through an employee health plan cannot be used or shared for employment-related decisions, for example.  Wellness programs offered directly by the employers and not through a health plan may have different protections but should also be reviewed by an attorney.

Keep programs simple. Employees will shun wellness programs if they are difficult to access or if complicated rules apply. Make sure that details are well communicated and that wellness programs are positioned as beneficial for the employee, not just the employer. And keep communications long term and consistent. Wellness activities take time to see improvement and can’t be viewed as a flash in the pan.

Establish the right measurement. The results of your program will be scrutinized by your C-suite. With your executive team, make sure that you have established the measurements that demonstrate success. Keep measuring the program’s progress, and don’t forget to celebrate good results with those who truly make it all happen—your healthier team of employees.