How to Design an Employee Wellness Program

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An ever-increasing number of companies are stemming the rising cost of health care for their employees by implementing employee wellness programs. When done well, these preventative programs can have a huge financial impact. According to an article by human resources expert Stephanie Sullivan, Johnson & Johnson reported an $8.5 million dollar savings in health care costs and General Electric claimed a 45 percent reduction in absenteeism after establishing employee wellness programs. Designing the right program for your company is the key to its effectiveness.

Decide what your program goals are. Goals could be work-related wellness such as stress reduction, a focus on preventative care or wellness initiatives that dovetail with company ethics such as smoking cessation, holistic health or substance abuse prevention.

Set a budget. You can create programs at any cost level, from securing discounts at gyms and health providers to creating full service centers onsite. Small companies may benefit from setting up programs in cooperation with other small companies to benefit from group discounts.

Look at existing programs of other companies that are successful and effective. See what ideas you can use for your program. Enlist the help of consultants involved with those projects.

Enlist the support and involvement of ownership and/or upper management. Encourage them to be active participants in the program, since leadership by example comes from the top.

Ask your employees what issues they would like to see addressed in a wellness program – you may be pleasantly surprised. If they feel involved in the process of creating the program, they will be more willing to actively participate. Giving choices from a list will net better results than asking open-ended questions.

Set specific, measurable goals for the program or its participants and broadcast progress made toward the goal. Combined weight-loss or smoking-cessation goals are examples you can use.

Promote the program to employees, making sure to spell out the benefits of participation. Generally, the more people participating in the program, the bigger the benefits and the lower the cost per person.

Incorporate activities that promote your programs into any company functions to underscore the company’s commitment to the program. Instead of a company family picnic with fattening food and beer, a company softball game with healthy snacks or a scavenger hunt may be a better option. Company parties could revolve around activities, such as live entertainment or a casino night instead of alcohol and a DJ.

Make the program part of the daily corporate culture. Promote walks during lunch, provide healthy snacks and have an occasional short day to leave time for a healthy group activity.

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