Over the past several years, corporate wellness programs have gained popularity across organizations both large and small. With the New Year approaching, employees are making resolutions to shed excess pounds, making it the ideal time for companies to begin implementing these types of programs. Furthermore, the workplace is an ideal setting for promoting healthy habits and instituting disease prevention, since most employed Americans spend the majority of their time at work.
Starting a Wellness Program
The first thing companies should do before starting a wellness program is designate a committee or person to lead the effort. This wellness committee, or person, should conduct an in-depth needs analysis based on the demographics of the organization. In doing so, employees should be given the opportunity to provide feedback on what programs would bring them the most value. By soliciting feedback from the main stakeholders there is a greater chance that people will be motivated to participate in the program.
Additionally, work to develop some specific “corporate wellness” goals your company would like to achieve and then build the program around these goals. For example, is the purpose of your program to improve morale, or to cut costs in health care expenses? With clear objectives, the success of the program can be evaluated and measured, much like any other business initiative.
Wellness Program Components
Once you’ve set your goals and determined which programs your employees would benefit from, you can start your wellness program by instituting a pilot program that can gradually be expanded over time.
Some ideas for components of a good wellness program include:
-Encourage fitness activities at work – Start a walking program where employees walk for a specified amount of time per week. In addition to slimming down, they’ll also have the ability to speak with their fellow co-workers in a more relaxed setting.
-Provide health club memberships – Partner with a local gym to provide discounted membership rates for your employees.
-Provide employees with a list of health-related resources – Make a list of resources where they can find stress management classes, fitness programs, and nutrition seminars. You can also include this information in your company newsletter, on your company’s intranet site or enclosed with their paychecks.
-Provide access to healthy snacks – Providing healthful alternatives in the vending machines will help employees satisfy their cravings with less calories and fat.
-Encourage employees to get out for lunch – Employees shouldn’t have to eat lunch at their desks during their lunch hour. A break from the physical and mental work environment can help relieve stress and improve productivity.
-Create wellness reminders – Post reminders around the office to encourage employees to take scheduled breaks and do office stretches.
-Offer smoking cessation programs – By quitting smoking, your employees will save on health care expenses and enjoy general well-being.
-Pay attention to ergonomics – Make sure that your employees have adequate lighting and comfortable work stations. Doing so can reduce your workers’ compensation risk, help eliminate strain-related injuries, and improve morale and productivity.
Wellness program benefits
There are multiple benefits associated with instituting company-wide wellness programs, including:
-Health insurance savings – For many companies, medical costs can consume half of corporate profits – or more. According to the Washington Business Group on Health, obesity alone costs employers approximately $12.7 billion each year in health care costs, medications, paid sick leave and life insurance policies.
-Illness prevention – Preventing illness is far more cost-effective than treatment for an existing illness, a benefit that helps employers and employees alike.
-Economic benefits to the company – Wellness programs reduce absenteeism, on-the-job injuries, workers’ compensation costs, and disability-management costs.
-Improved morale – According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) job stress has become increasingly common and costly problem. By encouraging and facilitating healthy habits in the workplace, you can help employees cope with stress and in turn become happier, healthier and more productive.
-A valuable recruitment tool – Having a wellness program in place will make your company more attractive to potential candidates, providing you with an advantage over other companies.
Bottom line: when companies commit to implementing a workplace wellness program, their employees gain access to tools that help them build happier, healthier lifestyles, making them happier, healthier employees.