Seven habits of successful wellness programs


Number 7

It seems everyone’s jumping on the wellness bandwagon.

One survey found that 24% of employers have started offering wellness programs in the last three years. Another  noted that 45% of midsized businesses already offer employee wellness programs.

Although there’s considerable evidence that health and wellness programs reduce costs and improve employee productivity, other research has raised questions about their effectiveness. So what makes some programs flourish while others wither? More importantly, what should your company do to get optimal value from your health and wellness efforts?

For starters, consider adopting these seven “best practices” found in many successful programs.

Lead by example. Business owners should model the behavior they want to see by taking breaks, working out and eating healthy foods and snacks. The Wellness Councils of America found that, when CEOs get behind wellness initiatives, things begin to change for the better.

Make it relevant. The best wellness programs are customized to fit your company’s culture and employees’ needs. Consider your employees’ ages, interests and health issues.

Engage, educate, encourage and empower employees. Regularly communicating about and promoting physical activity and nutritious eating habits will reinforce the importance of good health. Many companies empower employees by providing free access to on-site exercise facilities and education on exercise, diet, cooking, lifestyle and behavior modification.

Be creative. Small budgets don’t have to be an obstacle to success. Some low- or no-cost ideas include asking “healthy” vendors (such as gyms or natural food stores) to talk to employees, organizing weekly walks during lunch or after work, or starting an employee vegetable garden.

Consider incentives. According to a national survey, nearly 50% of employers give employees financial incentives for participating in health programs. Starting next year, the healthcare reform law allows employers to reward employees who participate in workplace wellness programs with subsidies equal  to 30% of the cost of insurance premiums.

Collect data, measure progress. Information about employees’ health such as data from screenings can show companies where to focus their efforts and whether wellness activities are making a difference. It can also be the basis for setting target goals.

Involve your insurance company. Many health insurance plans provide a wealth of online information and tools to help employees learn more about healthy living. Some reward healthy lifestyle choices and provide discounts on healthy products or services. Contact your insurance provider to see what’s available to you.

Photo Credit: Christian Guthier

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