All wellness programs are not created equal. One-off wellness initiatives aren’t enough to achieve the ultimate goal, which is really two-fold: get employees healthier and keep healthcare costs down.
Firms need to be smarter and invest in a well-designed health strategy in order to see a return, say researchers.
Effective wellness programs have good ROI of $1.50 to $3.00 per wellness dollar spent over a two to nine year time-frame, according to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) wellness study, Winning with Wellness.
The British Standards Institution (BSI), which guides firms toward excellence, recommends a three-pronged approach to wellness:
1. Define your initiative: Creating a written plan is critical to a successful wellness program, according to the BSI.
This will help get buy-in from senior leaders, which is key to a successful program. The plan should cover at least three years, which gives employers a window to track progress and participation.
A successful program includes stress management and work-life balance, as well as healthy behaviors.
2. Adopt a working model: Follow the principles of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Total Worker Health (TWH – a proven, well-researched program. TWH enforces policies, programs, and practices that take a holistic approach to an employee’s well-being.
The program has six Centers of Excellence across the country, which provide employers with scientific evidence and best practices that make for a successful wellness program. The Centers also provide in-person training programs and webinars on worker health, stress and well-being. (To get started in a TWH program, employers can email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
3. Provide training: Get your wellness team trained, or even certified, on the ISO 45001 standard – considered the “gold standard” when it comes to worker safety and health risk management.
The new standard, a more recent management tool that provides best practices for employee health and well-being, was designed to help companies reduce work-related diseases and accidents. Putting an accredited wellness program in place can be used as a recruitment tool, since evidence shows that employees want their employers to take an active role in their overall health.
Implementing the plan
Once the framework for a wellness plan’s in place, you can decide how to implement the plan, which could include the following best practices from the USCC:
Assess your company health: Each employer needs to take stock of its own employees to gauge its own readiness to launch a plan.
For example, if there’s a history or wellness efforts, find out what worked, what didn’t and why. Also, is the company in a financial position to support a wellness push now?
Create a culture of wellness: Make fundamental workplace changes including such things as smoke-free workplaces, healthy food vending machines and on-the-clock time to participate in wellness programs.
Develop a communications strategy: Use multiple modes – email, mail, text and social media – to get the word out to employees about a wellness event.
Educate the staff: Employers can use lunch and learns or national awareness campaigns, such as American Diabetes Month (November), to inform employees about specific topics.
Offer incentives: Employers might offer gift cards, cash deposits into an HSA or discounts on insurance premiums to encourage employees toward a wellness program.