Reasons to Consider a Company Wellness Program

    By Patricia Lotich | Small Business

    Despite the fact that the cost of providing healthcare benefits is rising at a slower pace, organizations continue to look for ways to control healthcare costs. Anyone who administers an employer-sponsored health plan understands that the cost of healthcare coverage is more expensive for organizations that employ unhealthy people. This understanding led companies to embrace wellness programs.

    Corporate wellness programs can consist of multiple approaches. Many businesses concentrate on weight loss programs for employees after they have a medical exam. Others stock vending machines with healthy snacks only. A corporation can even encourage employees to walk during break and lunch times. Other long-term strategies include newsletters that keep everyone up to date on health issues and guest speakers.

    Improving employee health is vital to a successful business and its bottom line. Businesses can gain a handle on healthcare costs if their employees are healthier and make fewer trips to doctors. Having wellness programs in any form means healthier employees who take fewer sick days and can increase work output because they feel better. Even with the cost outlay of the wellness program, most companies see a reduction in healthcare costs, for instance, L.L. Bean and Toyota.

    For example, Jane has frequent stress headaches. The pain is like a tight band around her head, and her shoulders, neck and back feel as if someone hit her with a sledgehammer. Sometimes, she has to go home or to a doctor. If her company had a masseuse/masseur on-call or during lunch hours or a relaxation class or something else that can relieve her pain, she wouldn’t have to leave because she got relief on-site and can continue to work. Also, she can leave the large quantities of aspirin in the bottle in the first aid kit.

    Well-defined programs are essential to a best practices approach to wellness. The Society for Human Resource Management found that the companies that were most successful in their wellness programs:

    • Included spouses in important components of the program
    • Promoted all activities under a single brand name (“The [company name] we’re all in this together plan,” or “The [company name] feel better program”
    • Had a formal, written strategic plan with financial objectives
    • Ensured active participation by senior leadership

    Aon Hewitt, a human resource solution company, found that 83 percent of employers offered incentives of some sort. They offered both rewards and consequences although 79 percent offered rewards while only five percent used consequences. Some (16 percent) used a mixture of rewards and consequences. For the most part the financial rewards were between $50 and $500. The incentive isn’t necessarily in the form of money; the employer can offer gifts (tablets, gift cards, etc.) or extra vacation days. Management can set up a monthly staff meeting to reward that month’s winner. This works best for weight management but is also good for something like no sick days within a department.

    The Mayo clinic did an interesting study on reducing obesity rates by offering incentives for losing weight. The study found that offering financial incentives resulted in people not only sticking with the program, but the participants also lost more weight than those who did not receive a financial incentive.

    Starting a wellness program in your company first requires an assessment of your employees overall health; medical personnel will probably do this. The best programs involve employee participation from the planning stage through participation. You also should set up something everyone will enjoy doing or at least completely commit to. Starting slow might work, like stocking the vending machines with healthy snacks, or jumping in the deep end with a weight management plan might also work. It depends on the company’s personality and the employees’ willingness.

    More and more organizations are realizing the benefit of offering wellness programs to their employees and are looking for creative ways to include it in their employee benefits. Many medium and large companies are finding great success, not only financially but in employee attitude also.

    Patricia Lotich is the founder of The Thriving Small Business and a small business coach. Patricia helps business owners solve problems and develop strategy and goals to achieve objectives. Schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation with Patricia to see how Thriving Small Business can help your organization.

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