When a company has healthy and happy employees, the company will reap the rewards. A correctly designed and implemented wellness program can improve employee health, productivity, morale and manage stress. Wellness programs guide employees to make thoughtful and healthful choices that ultimately reduce employer health care costs, employee presenteeism and absenteeism. The costs of implementing a wellness program are minimal compared to the benefits.
What is Corporate or Worksite Wellness?
Wellness is no longer a consideration solely for the self-funded company, but instead the solution sought out by all businesses, self-funded and fully insured. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control, “workplace health programs are a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite that include programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports, and links to the surrounding community, designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees (1).” A diverse range of benefits are offered under the label “workplace wellness,” from multi-component programs to single interventions, and benefits can be offered by employers directly, through a vendor, group health plans, or a combination of both.
It is no secret that health care costs have ranked among the top concerns of employers for more than the last decade. There is good reason for this concern – health care costs have outpaced inflation for years, and employers often bear the brunt of these costs (2).
Lifestyle Choices Cost Employers Money:
- 8% of U.S. adult’s smoke (3). The total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year, including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke (4). The CDC estimates that companies spend an average of $3,856 per smoker per year in direct medical costs and lost productivity (5).
- Presenteeism, the act of attending work while sick, costs employers more money than absenteeism. The total cost of presenteeism for US employers continues to increase, and estimates for current losses range from $150 to $250 billion annually (6).
- Nearly 50% of all employees suffer from moderate to severe stress while on the job, according to a recent survey. And 66% of employees report that they have difficulty focusing on tasks at work due to stress. Stress is estimated to cost US businesses up to $300 billion a year (7).
- A study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that, on average, a morbidly obese employee costs an employer over $4,000 more per year in health care/related costs than an employee who is of healthy weight. The study also revealed that obese individuals who had co-morbidities such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol incurred more costs than obese workers without these conditions (8).
Types of Corporate/Worksite Wellness programs
According to a RAND employer survey, “approximately half of U.S. employers offer wellness promotion initiatives, and larger employers are more likely to have more complex wellness programs. Programs often include wellness screening activities to identify health risks and interventions to reduce risks and promote healthy lifestyles. Most employers (72% of those offering a wellness program) characterize their wellness programs as a combination of screening activities and interventions. Wellness benefits can be offered by employers or a vendor to all employees or through their group health plans to plan members (9).”
- Awareness-oriented wellness programs provide information and resources to help employees learn about healthful lifestyle choices. These programs provide education and awareness, not actual activity or behavior change guidance. They tend to be most effective with already health-conscious individuals, and generally do not significantly reduce health care costs.
- Activity-oriented wellness programs combine awareness with participation in healthy activities. Examples include walking programs, weight-loss challenges, and discounted/free gym memberships. Generally offering some type of participation incentive. These programs usually lead to health care savings, and could take three or more years to realize a positive return on investment.
- Results-oriented wellness programs focus on measurable outcomes and behavior changes achieved through program. These programs also include components of awareness and activity-based programs. If paired with strong incentives, these programs have the ability to produce significant return on investment through a decrease in absenteeism and workers’ compensation incidents (10).
How to Select the Best Program
for Your Company
Step 1: Conduct an Anonymous Employee Interest Survey.
This is an opportunity to learn which health and wellness topics your employees are interested in. This is a great way to get employee feedback on pre-existing wellness initiatives and ideas for future programs. Consider that employee health needs information may be already available through other sources, such as HRAs or medical claims data, and the employee survey may not need to address those type of questions (11).
Step 2: Outline Your Wellness Vision and Expectations.
What type of philosophy are you looking for in a wellness partner? What type of experiences in wellness are you looking for? Often, employers succeed when their wellness vendor shares a similar mission and vision with them (12). Prior to researching potential vendors, outline your own company’s objectives on health and wellness. Ideally, you’ll want to enlist the help of a vendor that has experience helping similar businesses in your industry. Reach out to your Health Insurance Carrier, Broker and/or relevant Business Associations to learn about the vendors they work with and why.
Step 3: Select a Vendor/s.
What do you need most from a wellness vendor? Are you looking for a partner with the most innovative programs or up-to-date technology? Or is it more important to team up with an experienced vendor who has an excellent reputation with current clients? Are there specific degrees and backgrounds that your company expects from the vendor’s staff (12)?
- Does the vendor offer in-person or virtual services or both? This is highly important if your employees aren’t all in the same location.
- Does the vendor provide a full service wellness program or a la carte offerings or both? Keep in mind that the customer service aspect will vary greatly from vendor to vendor. Decide if the vendor should do everything necessary to get the program up and running and then let you take it from there — or whether you will need a significant amount of hands-on follow up from the vendor before, during and after the program roll-out. Vendors with superior customer service should be able to not only solve problems, but also anticipate and prevent future issues (12).
- HIPPA Guidelines. As outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Where a workplace wellness program is offered as part of a group health plan, the individually identifiable health information collected from or created about participants in the wellness program is personal health information and protected by the HIPAA Rules.” It is important to note that, “where a workplace wellness program is offered by an employer directly and not as part of a group health plan, the health information that is collected from employees by the employer is not protected by the HIPAA Rules. However, other Federal or state laws may apply and regulate the collection and/or use of the information (13).” Regardless of which way your wellness program is set-up, it is essential to maintain the utmost confidentiality of any personal health information for anyone involved – your vendor should support this regulation.
- Does the vendor provide innovative solutions? Not all employee groups are going to be impressed by a power-point presentation during a lunch & learn. Does the vendor offer different services and solutions for groups? Certain groups may benefit more from seminars, while other groups may prefer workshops and/or demonstrations. Does the vendor offer solutions for remote employees? Innovation in worksite-wellness is diversifying, with programs focusing on mental-health, healthy office spaces, providing work-place access to healthcare, and more (14).
- Will the vendor customize programs to meet the specific needs of your employees? Companies vary greatly in their background, culture, environment, and employee population. Your wellness vendor/s should seek to understand your company, and from that information develop a customized approach that will best meet the needs of your company. Best-in-class programs are designed to benefit the company as a whole, and within it, each employee.
- How does the vendor measure participant satisfaction? To ensure that your employees are enjoying your worksite wellness program the vendor should be tracking and measuring participant satisfaction. This can be accomplished with simple surveys following events. Your vendor should report the survey results to you in a timely fashion, and be able to adapt and modify future programs based on the employee feedback.
Step 4: Determine your need for Program Support.
- Does the program provide marketing and PR support? When you launch or reintroduce your wellness program its crucial for your employees to know about it. You may ask yourself, “How should I inform them about our program?” This is where the creativity and thoughtful promotion from the vendor come into play. Do they provide online marketing? Do they provide promotional materials such as flyers and brochures? Do they offer email marketing services? Your vendor should be able to offer you savvy marketing options that will inform and spark interest in your employees. Vendors who provide excellent marketing and PR support can take this work off of your plate.
- Does the program provide scheduling advice? One way of getting positive feedback and outcomes is by having frequently scheduled events and activities within your wellness program. Does your vendor work with you to determine the best timing and frequency for events? Do they outline your up-and-coming event in a simple format? Consistency is key. Consistency allows for progress to be monitored and accurate results on changes in employee participation and, most importantly, changes in their health.
- Does the program have a wellness portal and/or social media presence? Wellness Portals can provide access for employees to register for events (bio-metric screening), join challenges (walking and/or weight loss) and keep track of their wellness points (incentive management). Does your vendor offer a wellness portal, and if so, is it simple to use? Social Media is becoming the go-to for wellness awareness. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have created an open opportunity for wellness vendors to showcase who they are, and what they can offer. Your employees will appreciate having this information to reference, which they can access easily at any time. Your employees will appreciate having the option of multiple online resources from your wellness vendor.
- Does the program provide mobile options? According to new research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 68% of Americans own a smartphone (17) Consumers rely on mobile options to communicate, go online, and access and share information. It’s a natural fit for your employees to be able to access information from your wellness vendor, when they are using their mobile device.
Step 5: Determine the Programs’ Practicality and Accessibility for Your Employees
- Does your program provide diverse offerings? Diversity is key in capturing maximum employee participation. Your wellness program needs to be accessible, relatable, and appealing to your employees. Does the vendor offer services that cover many aspects of health and wellness such as nutrition education and disease management, stress reduction, physical fitness, and smoking cessation? Can your vendor customize your events based on your corporate culture and your employees’ needs? The ability to pick from a wide array of services will ensure your employees truly benefit from and fully enjoy your wellness program.
- Does your program address all aspects of wellness? Wellness is more than physical health; wellness encompasses social, occupational, and intellectual aspects as well. Consumers are becoming more curious about additional ways to live a healthy life (18). Is your vendor current and providing a holistic wellness approach with a variety of related topics? Does your vendor offer solutions for your employees with programs encompassing positivity, mindfulness, relaxation and self-care? To be successful, wellness programs must be comprehensive, tailored to the population, creatively marketed, and embraced by top management (19).
The Harvard Business Review has found that great corporate wellness programs make an impact by, “managing to shift people’s relationship with health from one where health is something thought about and ‘practiced’ annually at the doctor’s office, to one where health is practiced daily through small lifestyle habits (20).” Employee wellness has shifted from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have” for companies whose focus is on attracting and retaining top talent. As you want your employees to invest in your company by providing their best work, the company in turn must be willing to invest in their people with programs that will help them to lead healthy and happy lives.
If you are interested in learning more about a best-in-class corporate wellness vendor that is rated 99% in customer satisfaction, please contact B.Komplete for your free corporate wellness consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information please visit information about our programs.