How to Launch a Wellness Program
Approximately, 80% of the US population is in the workforce or linked through family relationships/retirement putting employers in a key role for health and wellness issues. People spend the majority of their week at the workplace, making the worksite and excellent place to conduct a wellness program. Launching a worksite wellness program doesn’t always mean spending large amounts of money by installing fitness facilities and hiring an on-site wellness coach. However, in order to launch a successful wellness program there are some key steps and planning required.
Assess the Needs of Your Employees
Collecting some data prior to starting a wellness program is necessary to know exactly what programs to implement. A good starting point is an Employee Needs and Interest Survey. You want to know what is important to your population, what they value and areas to invest your time, money and effort. For example, you may think a smoking cessation program is a great place to start, however, if employees are not interested in a smoking cessation program, but would really like to see on-site fitness classes offered, the program will receive much more participation and engagement if you are offering what is of importance to the employees. Surveys themselves usually make a positive statement about how much value is placed on the individual who is surveyed.
An organizational assessment or a Health Culture Audit will help you determine what resources are available and whether management may be willing to use more innovative incentives and programming. It will help you when developing a wellness proposal and budget. The Health Culture Audit will assist in determining the nature of the program and exactly how detailed of plans you will need. Make sure all budget issues are resolved during the planning process. You don’t want to roll out a wellness program and halfway through the year realize you have run out of money to fund the remainder of the program.
A Health Risk Assessment (HRA) in conjunction with a Biometric Screening can help give you a snap shot of the health of the employee population. With the data from HRA/biometric screening, a company can get an idea of what the needs of the organization are and what programs should be implemented to address these needs. Employees will also benefit from these HRA/screenings because it will give them information on their current state of health and potential medical issues. Biometric screenings are a great way to be able to track the progress of the health of your population year to year.
Design a Wellness Program
You will want to set goals and objectives based off the information you collected. This will help you to create manageable step sand achievable timelines to measure the success of your program. Under PPACA, wellness programs can be participatory or health-contingent. The difference between the two is that participatory is where the reward is not based on achieving a certain health factor versus the health contingent that is. Regardless if your program is going to be participatory or health-contingent some population interventions are:
- Health Fairs
- Lunch and Learn sessions
- Wellness events (walking programs, tobacco cessation, weight loss programs)
- Fitness memberships/on-site fitness facilities
- Community events
- Wellness Newsletters/web based information
- Health coaching
Wellness incentives really can have a major impact on initial participation. Don’t’ just offer a smorgasbord of wellness incentives; know what your employees value. For example, for some organizations there is nothing better than an extra paid day off work for participation. Based off research from the University of Michigan, a combination of employee benefits and cash seem to work best for achieving the highest level of engagement in the wellness program. Before you advertise the incentives to your employee population, make sure they comply with PPACA laws.
Implement the Wellness Program
Once you have a plan in place and senior level management on board, it’s time to roll out the program to the employees. Effective marketing and communication will help spread the work to encourage participation. When designing your program, giving it a brand can help to give your program identity. The brand should appear on any type of communication material you distribute to make the program easy to recognize. Speaking of communication, you can’t just slip in and mention biometric screenings during open enrollment. Communication is key to driving employee engagement in a wellness program. Wellness programs can be personal, thus communication becomes even more essential. Make sure to communicate often using several different methods, leaving no question unanswered:
- Annual calendar
- Employee Meetings
- Bulletin Boards/Marquees/Electronic billboards
- Payroll Inserts
- Social Media
- Intranet/Company website
There are several great resources available to help you in launching a wellness program.
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