Workplace Wellness Programs April 21 2015

Employees are the most important asset a company has. With that being said, employers should consider having a Workplace Wellness Program in place to help ensure that they have a happy and healthy workforce. In this newsletter, we will look at what a workplace wellness program really is, what you can do to help your employees’ health and some of the benefits that a wellness program could offer your business.

What is it?

Workplace Wellness Programs are designed to help employees choose healthier behaviours. For instance, healthy eating or a quit smoking campaign can be part of a wellness program. A wellness program consists of activities and campaigns such as health education, weight management programs, on-site fitness programs, and many more.

Companies should also have a workplace wellness policy that promotes a healthy lifestyle. The policy should inform the employees about the benefits of workplace wellness, and what you as the employer plan to offer to promote a healthy workplace. For example, offering healthier choices in vending machines in the lunchroom, or offering flexible working arrangements to promote work-life balance. Other wellness programs could include offering on-site flu vaccinations, “walk and talk” programs, or stress management coaching.

What are the Benefits?

Having healthy employees is great for business. By introducing a wellness program, your company will have the potential to have fewer injuries, less human error, and a more harmonious office environment. Wellness programs can also reduce stress, increase employee morale and improve the ability to attract and retain key people.

In terms of money, some companies, such as Canada Life and Citibank have reported a positive return on investment (ROI) with savings between $2 and $6 for every $1 invested in employee wellness programs. Healthier employees mean spending less on benefits and insurance. Other benefits include lower absenteeism, fewer sick days, lowered health and insurance costs, and an overall improvement in employee performance.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can provide a better quality of life to employees outside of work. Access to assistance within their personal lives may be what employees need to have a more productive work life. When companies offer EAPs to their employees, it shows that they really care about their well-being.

How to implement a Wellness Program

If you want to start a wellness program in your company it is going to have to begin at the top. Top level management and even the President are going to play a vital role in getting the wellness program to be a success. It will take more that just approving and funding the idea. For a truly successful wellness program, top management will need to participate and encourage participation among all employees.

As for the program itself, you could start with a health risk assessment (HRA). The reason for the HRA is to get a starting point for your employees. It will also allow you to track any progress and link it with potential increase in productivity. It is important to remember that any organizational reports should not identify individual employees; however individual employees should have access to their own personal information. Completing this initial health assessment will help establish a baseline which the employer will be able to design their wellness programs around in order to target specific areas of concerns.

The next step is to get employees interested in the program itself. The program should be well communicated and completely accessible to everyone. In order to ensure a return on investment, research shows that companies need a participation rate of at least 60%. Research also found that participation rates are higher when the activities are group oriented and create a supportive and inclusive atmosphere.

When you plan your wellness program there are a few things to consider. You need to ensure that you have clear objectives and know what you want to see as a result of the program. You also need to consider your target audience. Make sure you know who you want to target and that you create a program tailored to them. The type of campaign is another thing to consider. You should consider the tone you want the campaign to take, whether it is fun or informative. This aspect goes along with knowing your audience. Make sure that the tone of the campaign aligns with what your audience will most likely respond to.

In order to have an effective program, it may be in your best interest to form a wellness committee. By allowing employees who are passionate about the program play a role in creating and advertising it, will increase your chances of getting the entire workplace to participate. A wellness committee also has the advantage of working with key groups within the workplace, including the health and safety committee.

A workplace wellness program does not have to be a big expensive project that you jump right into. It is important to remember that you can start our small. Simply allowing a small amount of time for physical activity or providing healthy snacks in the lunch room are both easy and relatively inexpensive ways to get the ball rolling. Check with your local Health Unit for free healthy workplace programs that you can participate in. One great example that we have done internally is to launch a Walking Challenge. We borrowed pedometers from our local Health Unit and employees tracked the number of steps taken on a weekly basis and competed for prizes.!bFzHRI