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How Beneficial Is Your Corporate Wellness Program?

Wellness programs enable employees to make healthy choices each day.

Enterprises worldwide are looking for ways to reduce healthcare costs through incentive programs that reward employees for practicing healthy lifestyle choices, as well as offering an array of wellness-driven initiatives to reduce the need for medical services. These measures are changing behaviors in the workplace, as business leaders realize the impact employee absenteeism and high healthcare costs have on the bottom line. Keeping employees happy and healthy throughout the year saves companies money and strengthens productivity.

How does your enterprise focus on workplace wellness? What strategies are most successful in improving employee health and reducing healthcare costs?

Workplace wellness insights worldwide
A recent study from Global Corporate Challenge analyzed corporate wellness programs being deployed across the globe, outlining which efforts have been successful, what challenges were faced and the different ways to improve an approach to employee health initiatives. The research indicated global corporations are focused on wellness programs as leaders acknowledge the financial effects of a healthier workforce. It also found the behavioral changes in the workplace are being designed for long-term sustainability rather than to meet short-term goals.

When implementing a workplace wellness program, leaders are faced with mixed participation levels by employees, which presents a significant barrier to successfully transforming the corporate environment into a healthier atmosphere. Of all the employees least likely to participate in the program, high-risk workers continue to represent a barrier to program acceptance. A way to counter the barriers and reluctance of some employees to join in the wellness programs is to make health initiatives fun by offering rewards and turning the effort into a team-building exercise. The data revealed:

  • 95 percent of organizations worldwide have a wellness strategy or plan to deploy one soon
  • 41 percent of these organizations have started working on the program

  • 22 percent of these have completed implementation
  • 85 percent of organizations hope wellness programs will enable long-term behavioral changes in the workplace that will lead to sustainable outcomes

  • 20 percent participation is the average engagement level for organizations, short of a target 60 percent, citing a need for more time and interest in the wellness programs
  • 75 percent of organizations struggle to attract higher-risk employees to the program, despite these workers costing organizations the most with regard to long-term healthcare coverage

  • 21 percent are successfully engaging higher-risk employees
  • 45 percent feel employees do not consider wellness programs fun or engaging, which is a major necessity for almost all employees to participate

Assessing wellness
When devising a workplace wellness program, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends conducting an assessment of current lifestyle choices and habits in the workforce, and selecting certain improvements and goals to work toward. Business leaders should start by setting objectives and goals for the wellness programs that can be easily integrated into a standard workday without disrupting business workflow or productivity. Most studies agree that a healthier, more active workforce outperforms employees with lower wellness scores. Thus, deploying the program should benefit healthcare costs as well as professional productivity.

If a workplace needs an assessment, leaders should gauge employee demands and interests with regard to a health-focused program, and determine what resources are available or need to be acquired to get the initiative off the ground. Companies should bring in medical professionals to appraise individual or communal health risk factors, collect surveys from employees to determine program needs and interests, and elect a wellness committee to design the program along with key decision makers.

During the planning process, business leaders may come across new costs associated with the wellness program that must be worked into the budget. Often, the costs of deploying the wellness program will be paid back within a year or so - in the form of reduced healthcare needs - if participation is high.

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