Do you want to start a corporate wellness business? If YES, here is a 12-step guide on how to create a corporate wellness program for companies. A corporate wellness program can be said to be a well drafted set of activities that are aimed at ensuring the physical and mental health of employees in a workplace.

This program works by incorporating various health related activities into the daily work schedule of employees to promote their well-being. Corporate wellness programs come with a lot of benefits and that is why employers cling to it despite having to spend money to set it up. Creating wellness programs help in solving workplace health risks that usually arise from the consumption of unhealthy food and drinks, stress, lack of physical activity and more.

Employee retention and acquisition have also been cited as some of the benefits of employee wellness programs. A study by the American Psychological Association found out that 89% of workers at companies that support well-being efforts are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work.

Corporate wellness programs can be found in many forms across different organizations. Some may provide insurance covers for their employees, while others may take a step forward by installing workplace gyms. Yet others offer to pay for attempts by employees at healthy living.

Work places that offer a wellness program are said to have an 8.3 percentage point higher rate of employees who reported engaging in regular exercise and a 13.6 percentage point higher rate of employees who reported actively managing their weight, compared to those working at places where a program isn’t offered.

The motivation for employer-based wellness programs is straightforward. If employers can help workers cut back on alcohol consumption, quit smoking or increase exercise, workers’ health will improve, generating savings on health care costs, lowering the number of sick days people take and improving the overall well-being and productivity of the workforce.

How to Create Excellent Corporate Wellness Programs in 12 Simple Steps

1. Source Relevant Information

The first thing to do when it comes to creating an excellent corporate wellness program is to obtain information about the health of the workforce. The organization’s willingness to make improvements based on this information is a critical step in developing a workforce wellness program. This information will enable the employer to design programs and services that are most beneficial to both the employer and the employee.

Below are ways you can obtain this information:

i. Surveys: Conduct employee surveys to evaluate the personal wellness interests and needs of employees. Surveying employees directly helps assess the current climate as to how a program might be received and what information employees are willing to share.

ii. Conduct a health risk assessment: Assessing the health of the workforce will help determine which programs to implement. Several laws affect the use of health risk assessments, therefore, consulting with legal counsel is recommended. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) will apply when wellness programs are part of the group health plan (premium incentives, etc.).

Conduct an organizational assessment to determine which types of wellness programs to offer. Not all programs will be well used or supported by any one organization. Review group health plan utilization rates, both medical and pharmaceutical.

This information can be obtained in aggregate from the group health insurance carrier or third-party administrator. Evaluate health culture and conduct environmental audits of the workplace in general. Performing an environmental audit will provide information on the workplace culture and its impact on driving employee wellness behavior.

2. Get the Management of the Organization to be in Support

Another thing to take note of when trying to set up a corporate wellness program is management support. Support from management is essential to building a successful wellness program. As with any initiative, management buy-in is critical for funding purposes, for obtaining support throughout the organization, and for approving policies and processes related to the program.

Management can provide additional assistance by helping link the health promotion objectives to business outcomes, thereby positioning wellness as a fundamental part of the organization. The challenge in obtaining management support is communicating the potential value of a wellness program to the organization’s bottom line. Addressing the three questions below may help in obtaining the required support from senior management:

  • What are the organization’s short- and long-term strategic priorities? Employers should show how wellness programs support these strategic objectives.
  • What benefits can be expected from the wellness initiative, and what is the potential value of wellness promotion to the organization?
  • What are the leadership styles, pressures, strengths and weaknesses of the organization’s senior-level executives? These answers can help determine the method of presentation.

3. Get the Policy Down On Paper

Another thing to take note of when trying to set up a corporate wellness program is to get the policy or proposal documented. As with any other employee policy you create, you should publish clear employee wellness program guidelines in conjunction with your wellness committee and make them part of your employee handbook before employees enroll in the program.

Distribute the guidelines when recruiting and when enrolling employees in their benefit plans. Likewise, put up posters around the workplace to educate employees about the wellness initiative.

4. Set Up a Wellness Committee

Once you have a general sense of what the employees need, you should now appoint a wellness committee. This is essentially a group of employees who will help you plan, roll out, and advocate for a wellness program within the organization.

The committee should comprise employees from diverse corporate levels and departments, including the executive team, human resources, information technology, and the general employee population. The responsibilities of the wellness committee might include the following:

  • Evaluating the current programs, services and policies that are available in the workplace.
  • Assessing employee needs and preferences.
  • Developing a health promotion operating plan, including a vision statement, goals and objectives.
  • Assisting in implementing, monitoring and evaluating wellness activities.
  • Employers should solicit committee members by invitation or ask for volunteers, ensuring there is cross-sectional representation, such as members from the top management, the HR department, information technology, communications/marketing, and the health and safety department; union representatives; and employees interested in health and wellness.
  • Determine in advance how long wellness committee members will serve and how new members will be selected. Employers may want to alternate committee members annually to avoid burnout and to obtain new perspectives.
  • Select committee members who can best represent their peers, motivate others and support the implementation of the wellness program. Employers may want to obtain the support of committee members’ supervisors in providing each committee member time to devote to the committee activities.

5. Pick Out Your Goals and Objectives

Another thing to take note of when trying to set up a corporate wellness program is the goals and objectives of the program. Using the information gathered from the workforce assessment, you can establish goals and objectives for the program. For many organizations, a key goal is to improve workers’ health and thereby reduce health care costs.

Other goals may include reducing absenteeism, boosting worker productivity and increasing retention. Wellness program goals and objectives are statements of broad, long-term accomplishments expected from the program. Each goal should have one or more objectives to ensure that the goal will be successfully accomplished.

Objectives should be clear, time-limited and stated in such a way that it is easy to determine whether they have been achieved. Below are a few examples of goals and objectives:

  • Reduce the number of employees who smoke by 5 percent in fiscal year 20XX.
  • Increase the number of employees enrolled in smoking cessation classes by 15 percent by the second quarter of 20XX.
  • Decrease the number of employees identified as obese by 5 percent in 20XX.
  • Increase the level of medication adherence of the employee population by 10 percent.

6. Select Corporate Wellness Technology Tools

Yet another thing to take note of when trying to set up a corporate wellness program is the tools that will make it easy for employees to take up the program. Employees can’t keep track of their health behaviors on paper. To facilitate your corporate wellness program, you’ll need to research and find at least one technology product that can help employees self-manage their wellness goals.

Look into wellness tech tools that can help employees keep their health in check and gain access to the resources they need to make informed choices, including:

  • Technology platforms: These are generally web-based interfaces that employees can use to input and track health data over time.
  • Fitness trackers: Trackers are wearable devices that allow employees to monitor their exercise routines, sleep habits, and vitals like heart rate on the go.
  • Apps: Mobile apps let employees keep track of everything from calories to the number of steps walked in a day.

7. Set a Budget Limit

When it comes to wellness programs, you can be tempted to over spend or even offer programs that are so low budget that they of no help. Most businesses don’t have an unlimited budget for wellness programs. You need to decide how much you can afford to spend on the program so that you can offer a program type that suits that budget.

When creating a wellness budget, organizations should include the cost of incentives, marketing and program design. Typical items in a budget would include screening vendor/other provider fees; incentives for participation; promotional materials; meeting provisions; pedometers/fitness trackers; HR representative and committee member time; etc.

Additionally, employers may want to consider taking the following steps to look for hidden funding resources:

  • Conduct surveys to determine if employees would be willing to pay for an aspect of the wellness program such as yoga or exercise classes.
  • Partner with the health insurance carrier to determine wellness components offered by the insurance carrier. Often these program costs are already included in the health insurance premiums.
  • Research the option of participating in clinical studies from universities or hospitals studying the impact of workplace wellness programs.
  • Research free community resources or programs to supplement the wellness program.
  • Consider implementing low- or no-cost internal activities such as a lunch walking group.

8. Put Together Wellness Program Components

Based on your budget and the needs revealed by the workforce survey, gather the wellness committee and compile a few broad types of corporate wellness programs that fit the bill. Common types of wellness programs include:

  • Education programs: These hands-off programs provide employees access to self-guided training so they can pursue healthy habits on their own.
  • Community building: These employer- or employee-led programs help foster positive relationships between employees in and outside of work through company clubs or recreational sports teams.
  • Preventative care programs: Employers who implement these programs enlist wellness vendors to conduct on-site health screenings or offer tailored programs to help curb negative behaviors such as smoking.
  • Healthy habits: These employer-led programs can arrange classes or offer devices such as fitness trackers to help employees eat healthier or get fit.
  • Disease management: Leadership can offer these targeted programs if many people in the workforce have specific health issues that can be mediated through treatment.

Through a combination of employee surveys and discussions with the wellness committee members, you should be able to establish a concrete wellness plan of the type you want with individual components that meet your employee needs.

9. Select Wellness Program Incentives or Rewards

Another thing to take note of when trying to set up a corporate wellness program is the incentives to offer your employees when they participate in your wellness program. Incentives or rewards are an effective tool to change unhealthy behaviors, to adhere to healthy behaviors, to increase participation rates or to help individuals complete a program.

The argument for rewarding employees for participating in a wellness program stems from the basic principles of behavioral psychology: People are driven to act by the positive consequences they expect from their actions. Building a rewards system into a wellness program is a great motivator.

Rewards can take many forms, including points that can be exchanged for goods, gifts celebrating accomplishments or monetary awards. Over time, the motivation for rewards shifts from an external incentive to intrinsic reinforcement.

Effective incentives should be commensurate with the effort required to practice the desired behavior. For example, incentives attached to smoking cessation or weight loss should be greater than incentives for participating in a lunch-and-learn seminar. Federal and state regulations may limit incentives, so employers should keep up to date on applicable compliance obligations.

10. Partner With an Employee Benefits Company and Wellness Vendor

Companies generally don’t administer corporate wellness plans on their own. A corporate wellness program requires the assistance of many people and resources, most notably an employee benefits company and wellness vendor.

Work directly with an insurance broker to find an employee benefits company that caters to your budget and the wellness program you want to offer. You will also need to choose and then connect multiple local wellness vendors to provide services like onsite massage therapy and healthy cooking demos, or products like discounted wellness gear.

11. Share the Wellness Plan

Another thing to take note of when setting up a corporate wellness program is that the plan needs to get to the attention of your employees. Communicate the newly established system of perks to your workforce. The best way for companies to alert employees to the plan is through an onsite health and wellness fair for employees and their families.

Work with local vendors, and include a wide variety of interests to make this a popular event, such as nutrition, fitness, and stress management. Communication is important in marketing the program and ensuring participation. It is helpful to use communication to create a social culture where being healthy is valued. This can be done in many ways, using well-established techniques of marketing and changing behavior, such as the following:

  • An attention-generating program rollout.
  • A wellness program logo and slogans for various components of the program, such as “Every Body Walk Now,” “Wellness Wednesday,” “Recess” or “Time Out for Tai Chi.”
  • Visible endorsement and participation by upper management
  • Wellness education based on sound research
  • Persuasion of employees based on anecdotal situations
  • Sustaining the message and the program over several years
  • Multiple avenues of communication, such as e-mail, fliers and presentations
  • Repetition of the message
  • Keeping the message fresh with new information
  • Ongoing communication and marketing are important for maintaining engagement in the wellness program

12. Evaluate the Success of the Program

As with any investment or project, evaluating the effectiveness of the wellness program is important in sustaining the program. Employers should have established metrics and baselines at the roll-out of any wellness initiative, which will vary depending on the programs implemented.

For example, employers may measure participation rates, program completion rates, reduction in health care costs and percentage of employees who stopped smoking or lost weight. Employers may also want to measure the return on investment (ROI).

Regardless of the tools or measurements used, evaluating the effectiveness of the wellness program is an important step in the ongoing management of the program. By evaluating the success of the program, you would then know if it is achieving the desired objective.

More Tips to Help You Create an Excellent Corporate Wellness Program

a. Create Targeted Programs

There is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to corporate wellness. Employees are different, while some employees will crave social activities, others will prefer benefits that allow them to go at their own pace and with a bit more privacy. The needs of every employee is different and your wellness program should offer flexibility and customization to incorporate everyone.

When you customize your wellness offerings, employees can choose from various options that can range from morning boot camps and Pilates workouts to rock climbing and cycling classes. By creating a program with a broad reach, you can easily notice an increase in adoption.

To start, you need to look for a program that will cater to as many employees as possible, and offer as broad range of possibilities as possible for employees across different time zones and age groups.

b. Let Your programs provide incentives to workers

One huge way to ensure that your wellness program will get adopted by employees is to ensure that the program comes alongside an incentive. Reward healthy behaviors, such as walking a certain number of steps each day, getting a flu shot, or attending workouts. Here’s a few easy ideas to get started:

  • Track success on a company-wide leaderboard: Reward employees who prefer to remain more private with additional credits on their account, or handwritten notes from leadership acknowledging their success.
  • Use a catered lunch to celebrate everyone who hits their personal well-being goals for the month, and to welcome employees who are new to the program.
  • Offer relevant swag such as branded gym bags to the most active employees in the program.
  • Host onsite classes or special activities for the top-performing teams each month. By making this about a team instead of an individual, it encourages your grassroots advocates to push their team to the finish line.
  • No matter the incentive, focus on reminding employees about the actual benefits they are gaining from your wellness program, not just the rewards.

c. Keep it easy to follow

Quite a lot of employees absolutely loath wellness and other company programs because of the amount of paperwork that go along with them. Employees do not want to itemize every fitness class, gym membership, and wellness expense – it’s a hassle and one that can discourage them from using company-wide benefits. 10% of employees don’t even bother applying for reimbursement.

You need to keep things as simple as possible. Offer one easy to use platform, where employees can opt-in for benefits, rather than needing to find their own plans.

d. Keep it open for others

Keeping your wellness programs open for other participants is guaranteed to generate a lot of excitement and energy, and the result is that employees are less likely to cancel a workout when booked with team members, and more willing to test out a new type of exercise.

Encourage your employees to get social, by engaging in well being programs together, posting photos and success metrics to an internal Slack or messaging board, and sharing their experiences with one another.

Ejike Cynthia
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