The effectiveness of an employee wellness program is dependent almost entirely on who you ask. If you ask an employer, they may point to an ambiguous ROI as a reason why they dislike employee wellness programs. Ask an employee, and they may tell you a wellness plan is not just essential but is an employer’s responsibility to provide.
According to the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey, 78 percent of employees say it’s their employer’s responsibility to help them stay mentally and physically well. Your employees want wellness plans, even if you don’t.
But, for all those business owners and CFOs, it’s important to know that your organization, not just your staff, benefits from an effective employee wellness program. In this article, we’ll tell you what a wellness program is, how it helps both employees and employers, and what you can do to build the best version of one of these programs.
What is an Employee Wellness Program?
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a wellness program is a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite. These programs are designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees.
How Does a Wellness Program Benefit Employees and Employers?
The first benefit of employee wellness programs is the most obvious. If your wellness program is working, your employees will be healthier. As employees improve their health, they also spend less money on their healthcare.
This reduction in healthcare costs also improves employee’s financial health which reduces their financial stress. And this financial stress is likely weighing on many of your staff. Per the Financial Fitness Group, over 80 percent of employees have been affected by stress.
Both advantages to employees are also benefits for employers. When your employees reduce their healthcare costs, your company’s overall healthcare spend decreases. Similarly, any significant reduction in employees’ financial stress is impactful. Financial stress costs U.S. businesses close to $300 billion a year in unscheduled absenteeism, employee turnover, and reduced employee productivity.
Employee wellness programs also help to align employer and employee values. A wellness plan demonstrates your business cares about the well-being of its employees. Hopefully, this sense of well-being is shared with the individuals. The more your employees feel aligned with their employer, the more likely they are to be satisfied and productive in their role.
Also, engagement in a wellness plan translates to increased loyalty which can contribute to improved productivity and a stronger bottom line. Even employees who work at an organization with a wellness program, but don’t participate, are more likely to recommend their company as a place to work.
According to a 2019 Optum survey, 29 percent of these employees said they’d recommend their company as a place to work. Only 18 percent of employees who aren’t offered programs at all would suggest working for their employer. So, providing a wellness program helps retain talent, even if they don’t always use it.
9 Tips to Make a Rewarding Employee Wellness Program
1. Make Your Program Holistic
The first tip to improve your wellness program is to make it holistic. Your plan needs to address every facet of well-being: physical, mental, emotional, financial, and social health. In fact, according to BenefitsPro, more than 60 percent of workers think employers’ wellness offerings should support total well-being. So, make sure your wellness program uses a holistic view to address employees’ health.
2. Utilize Technology
Technology allows your company to provide employees with instantaneous, up-to-date information and wellness updates. The better and quicker you provide relevant information to employees, the more they will engage in their wellness plan. Plus, your company can use technology to gather valuable data throughout the wellness process.
One such piece of technology that’s relevant for wellness programs is wearable fitness trackers. These fitness trackers serve as a visual reminder for employees to be healthy and collects valuable personal data about their health. Your company can use this data to monitor the wellness plan’s overall effectiveness.
Virtual reality, gamification, and mobile devices are all examples of technology that can boost engagement in your wellness program. Technology makes your wellness program more fun, easier to use, and allows for increased focus. Integrate technology into your wellness plan to maximize employee engagement.
3. Personalize Your Program
Another tip for improving your employee wellness program is to personalize your plan as much as possible. Today’s employees demand their benefits, including your wellness program, to be personalized and relevant to their experiences.
For example, advanced analytics can help you better understand your employees and identify gaps in their care. This identification, in turn, allows wellness coaches to provide support and resources that have the most substantial impact.
4. Measure Plan Engagement
The next tip to boost your employee wellness program is to measure your plan’s engagement. It’s imperative your firm defines precisely what engagement means for you, and how you will measure it. Additionally, your business must standardize its engagement measurements to ensure these measurements don’t change from person to person.
There are two different levels of engagement your company must recognize. Administrative engagement, such as enrolling in a program, measures how often a participant is in contact with his/her wellness coach. Value-based engagement is the degree of interaction required to achieve critical health, behavioral, or cost outcomes.
5. Promote Health Literacy
Health literacy is the capacity a person has to manage and prevent disease. In America, health literacy has hit new lows. Per the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy. For your wellness program to maximize its effectiveness, your employees must be as health literate as possible.
Boosting employee health literacy is vital because it’s a predictor of increased patient engagement and improved health outcomes. Conversely, low health literacy prompts high health costs through less use of preventative services, poor treatment plan compliance, and more emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and readmissions.
6. Social Recognition
Integrate social recognition in your wellness program to augment its success. Social recognition can foster a team-friendly atmosphere and encourage employees to perform to the best of their abilities. Posting, sharing, commenting, and other social interactions help motivate employees through a sense of collective encouragement and competition. This kind of social interaction can also boost intra-team competition which helps improve your wellness plan’s performance.
7. Get Employee Feedback
It’s vital to the success of your employee wellness program’s success to secure your employee’s feedback. But most employers skip this crucial step. Per a survey by LightSource, only 30 percent of employees say their employer asked for their input on a wellness program before implementing it.
Gathering employee input also helps your organization to better personalize your wellness program, the importance of which we’ve already detailed. Additionally, this input can be used to gain a better understanding of why it is employees aren’t participating in wellness programs. Get your employees involved early and often to dramatically improve the results of your wellness plan.
8. Offer Multiple Plans
The number of different wellness plans you offer at work matters to employees. Per the Optum survey mentioned above, 53 percent of employees said they’d recommend their company if it provided seven to eight wellness programs. These percentages drop significantly as the number of plans drops. Employers with four to six programs were only 30 percent likely to get employee recommendations.
9. Improve Communication
The final tip to improve your employee wellness program is better communication. They say that communication saves relations, but they never mention it also saves wellness programs. It’s vital to educate employees on the benefits of your wellness plan for the plan to succeed. Your company must inform employees why good health is important, what your wellness program will provide, and how employees involvement is imperative.
MetLife’s Employee Benefits Trends Study discovered employees are most interested in one-on-one communications to help them understand their benefits. The second most popular option was through a mobile app. Ultimately, the best solution is to combine and use multiple methods of communication. The better you reach your employees, the more they’ll engage in your wellness plan.
If you follow these nine tips, you’ll have a solid foundation for your company’s employee wellness program. And the results of an effective wellness plan are more than satisfied employees. Research done by three Harvard professors found overall medical costs decline by $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. Similarly, costs from absenteeism fall about $2.73 for each dollar.