Three ways to create effective workplace wellness programs

By Higginbotham on July 20 , 2017

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In a whitepaper developed by the nonprofit, IT’S TIME TEXAS, author Kimberly Wilson said that more than one-third of Texans between the ages of 45 and 64 are obese. That's a real problem because obesity is an important risk factor in heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems (including sleep apnea), osteoarthritis, gout, high blood pressure and stroke, and some cancers.

As an employer, you know that when your employees get sick, the impacts aren't strictly personal. They also impact your business in the form of:

  • Higher insurance expenses
  • Greater absenteeism
  • Presenteeism (working while sick)

Fortunately, many chronic diseases are preventable. By getting your employees engaged in wellness, you can reduce the costs and complications of chronic disease in the workplace. You can also gain information to help you better manage your health care plan design and costs.

Here are three ways to create an effective workplace wellness program:

1. Put aggregated data to work for you.

Which diseases present that greatest risk for your workforce? You can find out by looking at de-identified medical and pharmaceutical claims data, available through your insurer or third-party administrator. Once you know the risks your workforce may be facing, you can strategize a targeted wellness plan.

You can also offer your team periodic health screenings, administered by qualified third-party health professionals. In addition to providing employees with health insights, this will equip you to monitor stats in the aggregate, identify patterns of risk, make suggestions on the most effective means of prevention, and track improvements over time.

2. Thoughtfully communicate and promote your program.

Be sensitive to HIPAA concerns and other privacy issues. If you plan a wellness program to target a certain disease or condition, make it easy for employees to discreetly participate. For example, if you promote a weight loss or diabetes prevention program, some employees may be reluctant to join due to the label and others may not want their coworkers to know they are participating.

Therefore, it’s important to name your initiatives carefully, focusing on positive outcomes like having more energy and living a longer life. Broad titles like “Fit for Life” can hold greater appeal for some audiences. It can be challenging to get people to participate at first, so plan to heavily promote your program. Consider hiring a third-party wellness coach so that employees feel more at-ease participating. Also, get managers and a few influential employees on board before the rollout so they can set the tone and lead the way.

3. Encourage small steps.

Make wellness an achievable goal – not a Herculean task. This typically involves many small steps. For example, organize quick break time activities to keep your team moving such as walks, hikes, stair climbs or yoga sessions. Offer perks such as gym memberships, Fitbits or discounts on healthy food. Distribute water bottles and a system for tracking ounces consumed. Host lunch sessions with experts on healthy cooking, exercise, goal setting and other positive activities. Make it fun and easy for the entire team to become more health conscious through a mix of activities.

Prevention makes a difference.

The bottom line: Workplace wellness programs can make a real difference in employees' longevity and quality of life – as well as in team productivity and healthcare costs. Ready to get started? Learn more about Higginbotham’s corporate wellness services here.

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