Although much of the discussion about workplace wellness programs seems to be dominated by the latest outrageous-sounding initiatives from companies like Google, the idea of workplace wellness has been gaining popularity with employers of all sizes. In a study published by the National Small Business Association, 93 percent of business owners and decision makers say the health of their employees is important to their business’ bottom line. However, more than 60 percent reported that their business has never had or tried to implement a workplace wellness program.
The two biggest reasons employers say they haven’t yet implemented a workplace wellness program are a lack of interest among employees and an uncertainty of how to implement and administer a wellness program. G&A Partners’ wellness specialist, Olivia Curtis, who manages G&A’s own award-winning corporate wellness program, outlines five tips for employers looking to implement a workplace employee wellness program:
“You need to consider what your main goals are for the program. Are you trying to improve employee morale and unity? Are you trying to decrease your high rates of diabetes and high cholesterol that are costing your company money?”
“By defining the objectives of the program early on, employers can ensure that any wellness initiatives and events directly relate to those goals. Here at G&A Partners, for example, we began the process of implementing a wellness program by identifying the main objectives we wanted the program to achieve, and then asking our employees what they wanted out of a wellness program.”
“A wellness team provides the muscle to get things done, the ideas to keep things fresh and the influence to keep your program strong. This team should be made up of people from different departments, different levels of health and different interests. Having a diverse team increases the chances that your program will have something for everyone. This team support will also aid in the longevity of your program by sharing the workload so one person isn’t getting overwhelmed and burnt out.”
“Before you create your plan, you need to collect data. Don’t waste time trying to guess what will work… ask your employees! A simple survey will get you all the information you need. Ask them about their current health behaviors (physical activity, nutrition, sleep, stress…etc.) and what they’re interested in. Use the responses you receive to choose appropriate interventions.”
Curtis notes that employers shouldn’t let a lack of funds prevent them from implementing wellness initiatives.
“I’ve seen companies put in workout equipment, reimburse employees for gym memberships, organize company sports teams, hold monthly wellness seminars, provide healthy snack options in the break room, run simple walking challenges, and bring in a health coach to answer employees’ questions and help develop action plans – no matter what your budget constraints or limitations, there are plenty of ways to create a corporate culture of wellness and meet your employees’ wants and needs.”
When developing a plan, Curtis also recommends that employers consider adding some incentives to reward employees and increase participation rates.
“The sad truth is that sometimes ‘becoming healthier’ is not enough of a motivator for employees. If your participation levels are lacking, think about offering gift cards, cash, extra PTO hours, contributions to their HSAs, lower insurance premium rates, merchandise, or some sort of formal recognition in the form of a certificate or written letter from the CEO. Again, I would suggest asking your employees what would best motivate them to participate in the program, instead of just guessing.”