Constructing and implementing an employee wellness program is an essential step in improving the health and productivity of employees. Wellness programs can benefit the employer by:-
- Decreasing absenteeism
- Achieving higher employee productivity
- Reducing workers compensation and disability-related costs
- Decreasing injuries
- Enhancing employee morale and loyalty.
Because of the importance of employee health, employers should consider implementing a well-designed wellness program that benefits both employee’s health and the employer’s bottom line.
Following is a general summary of what you will need to do to ensure an excellent quality design and implementation of a workplace wellness program.
Obtain information about the health of the workforce and the organisation’s willingness to make improvements based on this information is a critical step in providing the services that are most beneficial to the employer and employee.
- Conduct employee surveys to evaluate personal wellness interests and needs.
- Conduct a health risk assessment to determine which programs to implement.
- Conduct an organisational assessment to determine which types of wellness programs to offer.
- Assess health culture and perform environmental audits of the workplace in general.
Lobby Managerial Support
Backing from management is essential to building a successful wellness program. As with any initiative, having the management buy is crucial for funding and approving policies and processes that relate to the program. Management can deliver further assistance by helping link the health promotion objectives to business outcomes.
The challenge in obtaining management support is being able to communicate clearly and concisely the potential value of a wellness program to the organisation’s bottom line. Addressing these three points will help you obtain that buy-in:
- What are the organisations short and long term strategic priorities? Show management how the wellness programs support these strategic objectives.
- What benefits can be expected for the wellness initiative, and what is the potential value of wellness promotion to the organisation.
- What are the leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses of the organisation’s senior management? These insights will help you determine the method of presentation required.
Establish a wellness committee
After obtaining management support, create an internal, employee-driven committee that helps build and sustain a wellness culture in the organisation. Request committee members by invitation or ask for volunteers, ensuring there is a diverse cross-sectional representation. This committee should: –
- Evaluate the current programs, services and policies that are available
- Assess the employee needs and preferences
- Develop a health promotion vision statement, goals and objectives
Develop goals and objectives
Using information gathered from the workplace assessment, establish goals and objectives for the program. They may be to improve workers’ health or reduce absenteeism, boost productivity or increase retention. Each target should have 2-3 clear objectives, time-limited and stated in a way that is easy to determine whether they have been achieved. Establish baselines and evaluation metrics that align with the goals and objectives.
Establish a budget
Without funding, the program will stall. Organisations should include the cost of incentives, marketing and program design. You could also consider other options such as
- Determining if employees are willing to pay for a part of the wellness program, for example, a heavily subsidised gym membership.
- Participating in clinical studies from universities researching the impact of workplace wellness programs.
- Consider implementing low or no cost internal activities such as lunchtime working groups.
Design Wellness program components
These could be simple or complex. It is essential to include a variety of components that target risk behaviours and the needs and interests of the employees. These could include but not limited to:-
- Stress reduction programs
- Weight loss programs
- Smoking cessation
- Exercise programs and activities
- Nutrition education
Establish wellness program incentives or rewards
Rewards are a useful tool in behaviour change. They can help people adhere to healthy behaviours, increase participation rates to help individuals to complete a program. Building a reward system is a great motivator. They can include points to be exchanged for goods, gifts celebrating accomplishments or monetary awards.
Communicate the Plan
Document and communicate the wellness policy. It should include the organisations intent, level of involvement, and rewards and incentives system. Ongoing communication and marketing the program is essential to ensure participation.
Evaluate the success
As with any project, evaluating the effectiveness of the wellness program is vital in sustaining management and employee support. The evaluation metrics and baselines would have been established at the beginning of the program before implementation.
This isn’t an easy process to implement, but it benefits the health and wellbeing of both the employee and the organisation as a whole. Getting buy-in from both sides and encouraging participation are the keys to establishing an excellent wellness workplace program.