How to Create a Workplace Wellness Program

How can you make this upcoming year the best one yet for your business? It’s a lofty goal, but an achievable one too – that is, if your employees are ready to give you their best work this year. Launching a workplace wellness program is one way to motivate them to do just that. These programs can jumpstart employee engagement while driving down healthcare costs, a top priority for every self-funded employer.

The beginning of the new year may be the most effective time to launch your new wellness program, when many of your employees will be especially committed to their health goals. While the specifics of creating a successful wellness initiative depend in large part on the employer and the needs of its workforce, these five steps will get you moving in the right direction.

Assess the Needs and Readiness of the Workplace

Launching a workplace wellness program isn’t a cheap venture, so you probably can’t afford to guess at what benefits would best suit your employees’ needs. One option is to distribute surveys asking employees to weigh in about what initiatives they would like to see offered, and to rank their choices from most to least important. Employers may also use health risk appraisals when preparing to launch wellness programs. HRAs can be used to gather data about things including demographics, health conditions, mental and emotional health, and risky lifestyle behaviors like tobacco use.

It’s also worth asking yourself whether there are any factors at play in your workplace that will challenge your ability to offer a successful wellness program. Has your company launched such initiatives in the past? If so, what caused them to fail? Is there distrust between employees and leadership that might keep workers from engaging with new programs? Assess the willingness of company leaders to support a wellness program, too. Will financial decision makers commit to supporting new initiatives long-term? Who will employees go to with questions and concerns, and are those people invested in making this program work?

Define Your Objectives

You probably want your employees to be healthier and happier in all areas of their lives. It’s a nice goal but not a specific one. To measure your workplace wellness program’s success, you’re first going to have to decide what you’re measuring, and that means setting goals. Are you primarily hoping to lower healthcare costs? Reduce absenteeism? Improve morale? Maybe your primary goal is simply to get a percentage of the workforce to participate in the program. Whatever you’re hoping to achieve, get clear about those goals before launching new initiatives.

Make a Long-Term Plan

Like with any new initiative, it may take many months after launching a workplace wellness program before you see the results you want. Improving physical and emotional health is a long process, even for employees who are enthusiastic about doing so. Do you have a written plan for how the next few years of the wellness program will unfold, what resources the company will need to devote to it and how you’ll measure results year over year? Taking this step gives you a roadmap to follow. It also communicates to both employees and company leadership that they should invest in this program’s success because it won’t be just a temporary exercise.

Consider Institutional Changes

Some businesses claim to be concerned about the health of their employees, while making it difficult for sick employees to stay home and stocking the break room with nothing but sugary snacks. Employees might not be willing to invest in a wellness program if they feel like their employer is just paying lip service and isn’t truly committed to their wellbeing.

Ask yourself if your organization sends any mixed messages about health and wellness. Are employees discouraged from taking breaks that would allow them to get up and walk around? Do company-sponsored meals and snacks include balanced, nutritious options? Do company leaders take frequent smoking breaks while urging employees not to smoke? Do employees feel that they’ll be judged harshly for using their sick time and vacation time? These kinds of subtle pressures may make employees less inclined to take your wellness plan seriously.

Dismantle Barriers to Employee Engagement

Your wellness program could be perfectly designed to support the needs of your workforce, but you’ll never meet the goals you’ve set if employees aren’t willing to enthusiastically participate. Getting workers to buy in is critical. How to best do that depends on lots of factors, including your company culture and the resources at your disposal. Are you able to provide incentives that employees will really want and use, like wearable fitness devices or subsidized gym memberships? Would your employees respond positively to friendly competitions, such as dividing them into teams and awarding points to every member who completes designated wellness activities?

Removing barriers to employee engagement also means thinking about accessibility. All employees should be able to meaningfully participate in the program. If a company’s wellness benefits are all related to physical fitness, for example, will employees who use wheelchairs be excluded? Will workers of all fitness levels feel included in the program? If reducing your healthcare costs is the primary goal, it’s essential that your workplace wellness program be accessible for workers who aren’t currently super healthy or active.

Stop Loss Insurance understands how rising healthcare costs affect the health of your business. While launching a workplace wellness program can help you control them, we know you still have questions and concerns. How can Stop Loss Insurance help you meet your self-funding goals? Contact us today.


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