Skip to main content

5 Ways To Make Workplace Wellness Programs Work

Written by: Tracy Briggs
Published on: Sep 11, 2017

apple picture

They’ve exploded in popularity in recent years. According to a recent analysis,workplace wellness programs are now offered in nearly half of all U.S. companies with 50 or more employees. That means a whole lot of people are getting emails from Human Resources that read something like this:

“Today starts the last week in January health challenge – Just get up and walk every hour! The employee who logs the most hours gets a $50 Visa gift card.”

“Join us for a brown bag presentation in the breakroom. A registered dietician can help you navigate the ins and outs of balancing your carb intake.”

Employers aren’t offering these programs because they’re afraid their employees don’t have enough to do. While they care about their employee’s well-being, many employers also believe it will save them money. Wellness programs have grown into a $6 billion industry because specialist firms tell employers they will reduce spending on employees’ care by encouraging employees to take better care of their health.

According to a recent report by the Rand Corporation, there is some statistical evidence to suggest that employers save money on health care costs with the greatest success being with programs to assist employees with weight control, smoking cessation, and exercise frequency. But what can employers do to increase their odds of success with workplace wellness programs?

1.Make sure senior leaders are on board.

In this case, the importance of wellness in the workplace needs to be stressed from the top down. As busy as CEO’s and top management are, it’s helpful if they are seen at events and programs encouraging health. Get them to place great weight (pun intended) on making decisions at a corporate level.

2. Communication, communication, communication.

Senior leaders can be on board with wellness programs until they’re sweating like a fat guy doing P90X, but if employees aren’t hearing about it or aren’t getting the proper messages about it, it does no good. Managers need to make sure messaging about health initiatives are clear and that it’s disseminated throughout the entire company.

3. Make activities convenient and accessible.

Your employees work hard. Don’t make them work hard to get involved in your health initiatives. If you hold events, try to make them during work hours (and host them in your building). Once employees get home, they’re not likely to be excited about going out to the local skating rink for “Skate night” with the guys from accounting. Nobody is that desperate for a gift card.

4. Use existing resources and relationships.

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use what relationships you have with existing health plans and providers to expand offerings at little to no cost to your employees.

5. Know that wellness programs are works in progress.

Understand what you do this year might not be what you do next year. On the other hand, you might find a successful program worth repeating. You don’t know until you try something. Get feedback from employees. What do they like? What do they want to do more of? What was a waste of their time?

Workplace wellness programs can be a beneficial asset for both employers seeking lower corporate health care costs, and employees wanting to improve themselves. But like a lot of initiatives in the workplace, it requires planning, communication, and follow-up.