5 Essential Components of a 21st Century Corporate Wellness Program (Health)

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(Cover-Tek, September 2016)

It’s hard to miss the reality that obesity, anxiety and depression are plaguing your workplace. The stakes are high. If you do nothing, you know all about the long list of consequences: diabetes, heart disease, even suicide.

Time to put a smile on your face and STAY POSITIVE! Yes, it’s tough. You know wellness programs aren’t all created equal. Maybe you’ve tried one in the past and saw such low participation rates it didn’t seem worth it. You just want to do something that works.

Take a deep breath. Corporate wellness is changing, but it’s not a lost cause. Far from it. Here are 5 essential components of a successful program.

  1. Focus on at-risk employees.

According to a 2016 study by Rand Corporation, over the last 10 years employers have gotten the most bang for their wellness buck from the “disease management” component of programming. Companies saved $136 per member and reduced hospital admissions by 30%.

These are the folks who suffer from being overweight, having high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, etc. Doesn’t it just make sense that these individuals would be the most likely to participate in, and the most likely to benefit from, components like health screenings, lab testing, and wellness education?

  1. Include employees in program development.

This one isn’t new. When Harold Jackson started down the road to wellness at medical equipment company Buffalo Supply in the early 2000s, the ideas were pretty simple. He offered a bonus to employees who quit smoking. He put fresh fruits and vegetables in the break room instead of candy.

Real policies began to take shape when he asked his employees for input. In asking them about their concerns he learned that flu prevention was a high priority. On-site flu shots and a rotation of Lysol-spraying duties during flu season came as a result. Employee buy-in is a must for a successful program.

  1. Utilize technology.

Wearable fitness trackers like FitBit that communicate with smartphone apps are increasingly becoming a central component to both general lifestyle programs and disease management.

It’s never a bad idea to take queues from a major hospital’s employee wellness program for inspiration (since, you know, it’s a hospital). Houston Methodist subsidizes the cost of FitBits for employees to make it easier for staff to participate in performance tracking.

  1. Include an emphasis on mental health and sleep.

Mental health is harder to measure than physical health. Sleep is not something employees can do while working (unlike walking meetings, biking to and from appointments, etc.). Maybe this is why these components are sometimes overlooked.

Poor mental health means poor sleep and vice versa. When depression costs U.S. companies $44 billion per year there is no question it pays to promote mental health. If employees can track steps, they can track mood and sleep quality. A successful program provides access to mental health resources as readily as medical resources.

  1. Consider making it, uh, fun!

Pokémon GO may be the greatest app for promoting wellness ever devised. It gets people moving. It gets people talking. It provides challenges and rewards. It requires exercise and nobody seems to mind … because it’s fun.

Anything you can do to incorporate fun into your wellness program at reasonable or no cost, do it! Most people don’t walk for walking’s sake. For some of us, the health benefit is sufficient reward. Other people need to collect fictional animated critters. To each his own.

Ready to Start?

Whether you’re starting a new program or revamping an existing one, we hope you feel empowered to encourage wellness among your employees. Remember that you’re not just improving your business’ bottom line. You’re also saving lives.

But don’t dwell on that serious stuff. Take a break and go catch some more Pokémon!