Wellness. Is this just another in the latest line of buzzwords from the healthcare industry? While common sense dictates that wellness care would result in healthier employees who generate less health claims, there are many arguments against adding wellness to a benefit package. The popular ones are that the return on investment cannot be measured, or that wellness programs could violate HIPAA or ADA laws. Or that only the healthy individuals participate, leaving those who need it most on the sidelines. Or that your company is simply too small to do anything effectively.
But none of these arguments hold any water. In fact, recent studies consistently note that for every corporate dollar invested into wellness programs, that company is returning six dollars to their bottom line. These studies also show that the most significant dollars saved are being generated from the highest-risk individuals inside their company. Moreover, the courts continue to hold that no laws are being violated so long as the wellness plan is “incenting” employees to participate instead of penalizing them for not doing so.
Creating a viable and sustainable wellness program is a significant step in any corporate environment, and has several key elements that must be embraced in order to succeed.
- Support and involvement of top management. If employees see those who run the company embracing personal responsibility for their own health, as well as creating an atmosphere of concern for their employees’ well-being, not only do they get buy-in, but the side benefit of incredible goodwill. Studies have also shown that successful wellness programs can reduce turnover by half.
- Form a “wellness committee” that oversees not only long-term goals and outcomes, but the day-to-day machinations of how the program operates. Again, peer buy-in is critical to success.
- Measure the current environment. It makes sense that you cannot change what you can’t measure. How can we identify health issues of significance and affect a plan that benefits the employees without making initial measurements? All three Peoria hospitals can provide onsite nurses/phlebotomists to measure any kind of health concern—from cholesterol to blood sugar or height/weight issues to blood pressure. There are any number of companies online that offer health risk assessments that let us know where concentration and planning need to occur.
- Create a plan that has goals. This can be for the company as well as the individual. You could collectively lose 500 pounds as a company, or collectively walk 1,000 miles at lunch time between now and Christmas. This area is only limited by your imagination.
- Create a supportive environment. Allow your employees to work an hour later if they take an hour at lunch to work out, or split the cost of a gym membership with them. Put healthy snacks into the vending machines. Moreover, reward them for participation in this program. If they don’t smoke, make their health premiums 10 percent less. If the employee controls his/her blood pressure, either through diet, exercise or medicine, again reduce his/her health premiums another 10 percent. Buy an iPod or pedometer for the person with the most weight lost in a month’s time.
- Measure outcomes and be proactive to meet goals. If what you are doing is not working well enough, evaluate what you are doing and determine how to better meet your goals.
There are significant and substantive benefits of wellness programs—from reduced health costs to lesser absenteeism and presenteeism (lost productivity that occurs when employees come to work but underperform due to illness). Corporations are finding that healthier workers who believe that their company is more interested in them than just as employees are happier, healthier and more productive. A successful program takes time, energy and a little investment from the management of the company, but taking interest in the health of its employees has payoffs that are amazing for both the employee and the company. iBi