Over the past 10 years, worksite wellness has become an increasingly vital topic in HR meetings, executive offices and corporate boardrooms alike. Employers have developed a growing interest in health-related issues and subsequently reducing unnecessary medical costs that consume corporate profits and employee paychecks.

Today, approximately 80 percent of all employers with 50 or more employees offer some form of worksite health promotion program. The reason for this is quite simple—a healthy, motivated workforce has a significant impact on the bottom line through increased productivity and lowered healthcare costs. Encouraging employees to make and sustain healthy lifestyle choices also holds great promise for reducing time lost to illness or injury by helping maintain a safe, motivated and energetic work environment.

While companies are instituting a wide array of worksite wellness initiatives—from smoking cessation programs, nutritional counseling and exercise programs to comprehensive onsite health risk assessments and health coaching—few can demonstrate the effectiveness and outcomes of these programs. The Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) is at the forefront of the worksite wellness movement and has reviewed a multitude of corporate case studies to find the most common elements inherent to successful health promotion initiatives. These seven elements, outlined briefly below, have been utilized in many companies across the United States to institute successful wellness campaigns because they are results-oriented and have measurably effective outcomes.

  1. Capture Senior-Level Support. The first element of an effective corporate wellness program is capturing senior-level support. Wellness must be instilled as a corporate core value and a vital strategic initiative. If the CEO rallies the senior team to champion the health promotion efforts, allocates the appropriate resources to fund the program and effectively communicates the wellness plan to all employees, a culture of wellness can and will begin to flourish.
  2. Form a Wellness Team. The second element is the creation and integration of an effective wellness team. The involvement of employees from all departments, locations and shifts serves to give the wellness program credibility and energy. The wellness team quickly becomes the vehicle to promote and execute the wellness-related functions throughout the company. The team also provides stability and lightens the work load when implementing the program. 
  3. Collect Data. The third element is to collect appropriate health data and create a wellness database so that the information can be used to create a custom corporate wellness campaign. Collecting health data will provide a comprehensive risk factor analysis and clear guidance concerning what health-risk behaviors require the most attention. Following year-to-year health risk trends is also key to measuring the impact of the wellness program and return on investment. 
  4. Craft an Operating Plan. The fourth element is to craft an operating plan to implement the wellness initiatives. Collecting, analyzing and utilizing health data to create a wellness program geared toward achieving a desired, result-oriented outcome is the goal. The operating plan also allocates the personnel and financial resources necessary to carry out the wellness goals.
  5. Choose Appropriate Interventions. The fifth element is to choose appropriate health promotion interventions. Interventions are the strategies used to educate employees on how to improve their health primarily through lifestyle modification and appropriate medical consumerism. Things to consider when choosing interventions include how often they will be offered, who they will be offered to and whether or not there will be incentives utilized to increase participation. Other interventions may also include utilizing community resources, or even referring employees to an appropriate health professional if they have complicated medical or behavioral health risk factors.
  6. Create a Supportive Environment. The sixth element is to create a supportive, wellness-oriented corporate environment. We all tend to thrive and excel in an environment that provides us with the adequate resources, support and encouragement to do our best work and reach our full potential. Promoting a healthier environment in an organization is time and effort well spent when it comes to ensuring a healthier, happier and more productive workforce. 
  7. Measure Results. The final element of an effective, results-oriented wellness program is to consistently measure results and use this information to fine-tune the program as it evolves over time. By annually gathering health data from employees and comparing the data to the previous year, an employer can gain insight and understanding as to which strategies are successful and which ones need more attention.

While creating and managing an effective wellness campaign has become a corporate necessity, it is not without potential pitfalls. The 2004 National Worksite Health Promotion Survey reported that five obstacles can potentially impede successful implementation of worksite wellness programs:

  1. Lack of employee interest accounted for 63.5 percent.
  2. Insufficient staff resources contributed 50.1 percent.
  3. Inadequate funds were responsible for 48.2 percent.
  4. Failure to engage high-risk employees added another 48 percent.
  5. Inability to elicit the support of upper management totaled another 38 percent.

These reasons simply underscore the necessity for a well-planned, well-executed and adequately supported health promotion plan to avoid missing the target in regards to corporate health and wellness goals.

In conclusion, corporate wellness programs can be effective in reducing overall healthcare costs, diminishing employee turnover rates and improving employee morale, and can help promote a more energetic and productive workforce. A results-oriented wellness program which is thoughtfully designed and carefully executed allows employers the opportunity to stay ahead of the game and be proactive in their efforts to protect their greatest asset—their employees. IBI