In all too many cases, they don't decrease health spending - and they may not create the returns that you, as an employer, really want as you work to increase overall health in the workplace. While employees might be more likely to engage in exercise or eat a healthy diet during the day, they might not make needed changes to other health behaviors--and that can leave them struggling in other areas of their health.
So how do you create a corporate wellness plan that actually works?
First and foremost, it starts with the foundation of your program. While many health and wellness programs created at the company level do fail, others can help your business grow, and your employees thrive. It's all in the way you create your program.
As a business, you may not see short-term rewards for your investment in a corporate wellness program. Employees won't stop taking sick days or using their health care plans overnight, and you may not see an immediate shift in the amount of time employees spend out sick.
What you may see, however, is a change in employee attitude. As employees realize that your company genuinely prioritizes health and wellness, they'll find themselves more likely to jump in and prioritize staying healthy, whether that means getting a solid eight hours of sleep at night, reducing stress, or finding time for exercise even in the middle of a busy, deadline-filled day.
You may notice that employees gradually start getting sick less often. They're more energetic and attentive when they're at work. They have the focus and concentration needed to handle more of their daily tasks. In short, they're healthier, which makes them more effective employees. In order to achieve those benefits, however, you must take the long approach to your corporate wellness program, sticking with it instead of dumping it when it seems, initially, to be failing to help you reach your goals.
Creating a corporate wellness program that works is about more than just having employees answer a stack of health-related questions or conducting a few screenings--and directing your employees to your company's insurance page is unlikely to achieve your goals. Instead, build your company culture as a whole around the idea of health and wellness. You can't feed your employees healthy snacks in the vending machine on the one hand and turn around and force them to work too many hours on tight deadlines on the other and assume that you will be able to reach your corporate wellness goals. Instead, consider some of these attributes of your corporate wellness program:
Employees need work/life balance. Flexible scheduling, including the ability to work from home part of the time if needed, can go a long way toward helping employees improve work/life balance if that's something that your business is able to offer. Unable to provide that type of scheduling opportunity? Consider how you can allow your employees plenty of time with their families and to focus on areas of their lives outside the office.
What your employees eat matters. While there's nothing wrong with the occasional treat--birthday cake on important birthdays in the office, for example--it's equally important to consider what your employees are eating when they're at work. Take note of things like:
Sunlight can improve mood, decrease stress, and improve overall health. Vitamin D straight from the sun not only has the potential to boost mood, but it may also have a substantial impact on bone health and, in fact, overall health and wellness. Employees who are stuck inside all day, unable to get out and walk or spend time in the sun may notice a decrease in their overall health. By offering employees time to get outside, especially in winter, when the sun is out for such a short period of time, you can often provide employees with better overall health.
What do your employees really want from a company wellness program? Take the time to listen to your employees before you even start putting your program together--and be open to employee feedback as you move through the process. This includes:
Asking what aspects of health and wellness employees need or want to prioritize. Chances are, employees aren't interested in learning more about potential lifestyle dangers and risk factors. They already know that smoking, excess drinking, and obesity have a number of risk factors associated with them, and they don't need your feedback to help them see it. Instead, get a better idea of what employees do want to know about. Do they need help putting together an effective diet on a tight budget or with little time for meal prep? Do they need the chance to fit in exercise in the middle of the workday, so that it can be a priority? By understanding what your employees really need, you can design a better corporate wellness program that is more likely to fit their needs.
Discovering what incentives employees are looking for. The goal of most corporate wellness programs is to gradually move employees from engaging in the right behaviors because of corporate policy or goal to engaging in those healthy behaviors because they want to. In order to move past that hurdle, however, you need a better idea of what incentives employees really want. Those incentives and rewards can ultimately make a big difference in your employees' drive to meet those goals.
Don't let your corporate wellness program fly under the radar, where hardly anyone knows about it or takes advantage of it. Instead, make sure that your employees know all about your program and everything it has to offer. Provide regular updates. Make it part of your overall company structure. The more you spread the word, the more likely employees will be to take advantage of the program and everything it has to offer.
As a rule, employees are more likely to participate in your corporate wellness programs and initiatives when you make it social. Whether you're putting together an exciting yoga class for your employees' lunch break or offering a competition with incentives for employees who walk the greatest number of steps, social involvement is the key to your corporate wellness program's success. You don't have to publicize results on a giant company newsletter - and you certainly don't want to call out employees who aren't meeting their wellness goals--but creating a socially involved environment where everyone can participate in your program and share their results with one another can go a long way toward helping to ensure your program's success.
Creating an effective corporate wellness program won't happen overnight. With these strategies, however, you can work to build a corporate wellness program that will involve all of your employees, engage them, and encourage them to take full advantage of everything the program has to offer--and then you, as the employer, can reap those important rewards.
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