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26 Mar

How Wellness Consulting Can Turn Your Wellness Program Around

As corporate wellness programs continue to become more and more ubiquitous, we've seen countless companies trying to make use of them. And as great as it is seeing companies addressing both physical and mental wellbeing, a question still arises: how can these programs become more effective and encourage engagement from more employees?

There are many ways to address this concern, but most business owners, managers, or company leaders may not always have the time to do so, and sometimes it's best to get a professional involved. A health and wellness consultant could provide companies with just the edge they need to get the most out of their programs.

The problem

The potential for corporate wellness programs is enormous. It's an excellent way to show employees you care for their wellbeing, a way to build a company culture centered around health, and a secure method for cutting back on healthcare costs and absenteeism without putting employee wellbeing on the line. Still, the issue of employee engagement is one that companies often find themselves facing.

One study found that employees actively working to improve their health (both sick and healthy ones) became 10% more productive in the process. That being said, another study conducted on employees found that employees in wellness programs were 8.3% more likely to engage in regular exercise and 13.6% more likely to be actively managing their weight. The potential is undeniable, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. 

What can I do to address this?

Obviously, a significant aspect of resolving this issue lies in the wellness program itself. Choosing the right type of wellness program and what it consists of is often overlooked, but there are many factors to consider when choosing one. The field the company is in, the style of work, and the individual employees themselves. But what if you've considered all of this, but are still running into issues?

This is precisely where a health and wellness consultant can help you out. Regardless of the program, a human element always helps when dealing with people, especially if you want to show them you sincerely care about their wellbeing. Nobody wants to feel forced into things like wellness programs. So instead of utilizing exclusively materialistic incentives, adding a wellness consultant to an already rock-solid program can help employees want to take part in the program and lead healthier lives instead of having them begrudgingly go through the motions.

Enter...health and wellness consultant 

This is an area where a health and wellness consultant could greatly help. What is a wellness consultant? It's someone who specializes in giving advice and counselling for company wellness programs. The entire aim of wellness consulting is to get more people to participate in these wellness programs in a more organic manner. A qualified corporate wellness consultant generally has a health-oriented background and specializes in anything from diet to exercise to psychological assistance. 

This applies to both a macro level (company) and micro-level (employees). If you haven't picked the correct wellness program, they'll help you choose one or create one. If you have, they can help optimize it. If your employee engagement is low, they'll help increase it. Corporate wellness consulting works with every layer of the company, helping the company, its owners, and employees make the most of their wellness program. 

1. Picking and optimizing the right corporate wellness program

Choosing a wellness program might seem like a very straightforward task, but taking the time to approach it correctly can really help engage more employees. A lot of employers utilize incentives to increase engagement, but this has been found to change short term behaviors without building or encouraging long term behavioral changes. The most effective way to get more employees involved in long term wellness lifestyle changes is picking and designing the correct program.

To do this, many factors should be considered. Wellness consulting professionals can take a good look at all these different factors and come up with a tailor-made wellness plan. Depending on the field of work or the number of employees, plans can differ substantially from one company to the next. And since employers are not wellness experts and generally tend to be too busy with their work to spend time on molding the perfect wellness plan, a wellness advisor could do that for them. Likewise, if you have a plan already, they can help make the most out of it by taking all the same things into consideration. 

These factors are crucial to consider for the wellbeing of employees and their engagement in wellness programs. For example, if the work is office-based, wellness advisors can create or optimize a plan to put more emphasis on physical exercise. If the work is more labor-intensive, they can emphasize mental wellbeing or sleep. Some fields have a disproportionately high number of smokers, in which case they might incorporate quitting or reducing smoking into a plan. 

A wellness consultant will spend the time and effort needed to consider these things in order to ensure the employees are both interested and encouraged in taking part in the wellness program.

2. Personalizing and crafting tailor-made consultations

Making sure the program in place works for all employees is critical. A large part of this is, as mentioned above, making sure your plan fits your field and, even more importantly, your company. But this is only a small part of truly personalized wellness advising. It's also important that within the company, the program works with all the employees.

There are many ways to do this. If your company is small enough, many wellness consulting specialists will actually take the time to meet with employees one on one and talk to them. They can check on their progress, levels of satisfaction with their progress/the program, tweak their existing plan or craft a new one if needed, and check up on other metrics of health with them such as their mental wellbeing or stress levels. Though wellness consultants aren't psychological professionals, they can still lend a listening ear and help get them in touch with the right people (more on this later).

In the case of more prominent companies, wellness consulting experts can devise different approaches between the various branches or divisions of the company. They can set up meetings with the heads of these branches in order to track the progress and effectiveness of the program instead of meeting with each employee one on one. In addition, they can work with the human resources departments in order to ensure their program is working and employees are satisfied.

3. Crunching the numbers, so you don't have to keep guessing

Wellness is a science and, like any science, it has lots of figures and concrete data to process, organize, and extrapolate from. But what sort of leader in any company has the time for all that extra work? More importantly, who would want to spend their free time sitting around and crunching numbers? Not many people. But luckily, this too falls under the responsibilities of a wellness advisor.

Wellness consultants mainly look at two different kinds of data. The first is the actual fitness data. Again, for a small enough company, this can be on a very individual level, where they track the progress and goals for every employee individually. With larger companies, they can once again work with managers of specific branches in order to track goals and progress. This will give employees tangible feedback, which is always encouraging.

The second kind of data wellness consultants can look at is how the program is affecting the company. They can track things like absenteeism and healthcare costs, corroborating the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the program with concrete figures. Once the effectiveness of the actual program is realized, changes can be made in order to increase its efficacy and goals can be set in order to evaluate progress more accurately in the future.

Both types of data they look at can be used to provide employers with expenditure-based data, which is crucial for any business. Seeing the savings can be the perfect encouragement to keep going, and seeing lack thereof is the best motivation to spend more time changing the wellness program to ensure it's working correctly for you.

4. Helping to create a culture of mental health

Mental health is an often overlooked aspect of overall well being, both in wellness programs and in general. There are a few reasons for this. As an intangible measure of health, it can be notoriously hard to gauge, and this often means many people don't realize they are having issues with mental wellbeing. However, it doesn't have to be this way.

Wellness consultants can help companies address mental wellbeing among employees and help create an environment where there is no stigma in addressing mental health issues. Many wellness programs can try to address certain aspects of mental health by measuring stress, tracking sleep, and providing guided meditation. These things alone can definitely go a long way. But sometimes more serious issues require a personal and more individualized approach. 

Wellness consultants can work with existing systems in the company, such as human resources, management, or even the individual employees themselves in order to improve their mental health. Addressing such issues could prove to be the most crucial aspect of addressing health at large in a work environment. There is ample evidence to support the fact that stress can lead to serious physical health issues, and it's essential that employees learn to manage their stress.

Mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety, can also affect performance. Though lower levels of stress are considered to be a normal biological reaction that can be conducive to productivity, most people today are far beyond that limit, especially when it comes to their workplace. Too much stress and anxiety leads to diminished productivity and can affect productivity more than any other aspect of health. 

5. Helping come up with and administer incentives

Central to every wellness program should be sincerely wanting to increase health and wellness among employees. Implementing an entirely incentive-driven wellness program won't be as effective. But that doesn't mean incentives shouldn't be used at all! Utilizing incentives in a corporate wellness program can be incredibly effective and help make employees feel accomplished while providing encouragement.

Incentives can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some companies opt for straight cash, others provide a reduction in insurance premium costs, while others offer gift cards and coupons for local businesses. Each type of incentive has its place and can be utilized for increasing engagement in wellness programs. 

A wellness consulting specialist can figure out how exactly the program's incentives should work and be administered. Again, this is a job that considers many factors, from the field of work to the number of employees, and not one everyone has the time to do properly. If done correctly, however, it can have a direct impact on engagement, progress, motivation, and savings for the company.

So how do I know if a wellness advisor can help me?

Almost every company could make use of a wellness consultant. Even the best programs could be tweaked and optimized in order to provide more returns for both employees and companies. All programs could use a professional touch to ensure they're addressing every dimension of health. Whether it's physical exercise, wellness habits, or mental health, everyone can stand to improve in at least one of these categories, and a consultant could tell you exactly where.

Just like the companies that utilize them, wellness consultants come in all different shapes and sizes and are flexible depending on the work. Some companies employ wellness advisers full time for continued consultation, while others may hire them on a per need basis when they need to create a program or to evaluate and tweak their program occasionally. Generally speaking, most such consultants have a background in medicine or personal health (or both!) and can provide any type of company valuable advice. 

There are health and wellness consultant firms that specialize in providing specialists for companies, and there are also individuals with personal health backgrounds that provide these services. There are also general health and wellness companies that employ such specialists and provide these services among a variety of other ones. Competent experts are abundant in all areas of the health and wellness industry and generally speaking, finding a consultant who could provide your company with valuable expertise shouldn't be too hard. 

The bottom line

Wellness consultants can prove to be the difference between a wellness program being something few employees take part in while the vast majority forget about and something that has high engagement, changes behaviors, and provides tangible savings for the company. They can create a program, take care of all the program data that requires meticulous attention, and make changes accordingly in order to optimize the program. A company with a wellness program or a company that's considering one should consider the option of a wellness advisor as a complementary piece in order to ensure they make the most of it.



Photo Credit: DepositPhotos

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