The needs for successful wellness programs vary tremendously depending on the industry and position, but some simple methods remain true for every company.
There’s a wealth of case studies and corresponding data that can help decipher which wellness programs are truly working. A successful wellness program will pay for itself and far beyond. The increased amount of productivity, engagement, and overall wellness is immeasurable.
Prevention in the form of diet, exercise, and improved preventative health care (free screenings, tests, etc.) and incentives such as reduced insurance premiums (or in some cases cold hard cash) all make up a comprehensive, and likely successful, wellness program. So HR pros, here’s the scoop on what it takes to help employees get well.
Prevention: Diet, Exercise, and Preventative Medicine
Diet plays such a huge role in the overall wellness of employees. North Carolina instituted 9 pilot health programs for employees of the state. This set of programs, HealthSmart, saved the state $22.5 million annually. One of HealthSmart’s most important initiatives was to offer much healthier food options in the cafeteria. In a study of one of those 9 pilot programs first year of operation, there was a decrease of 10% in new cases of heart disease and 20% in new cases of diabetes.
The healthiest times of day to eat are generally during work hours. Offering healthy food choices, or rewarding employees for making them, is vital in order to have a healthy staff.
There are a number of proven successful methods for encouraging employees to exercise. Walking programs are an easy way to get even the most unfit employees moving. A pedometer, some easy tracking, and some modest incentives are all you need. Subsidized gym memberships are also an easy and effective way to encourage activity among staff. Company fitness challenges can also encourage exercise.
More innovative ideas, such as having treadmills for use during brainstorming, writing and other more intellectual activities, are also an option for some organizations. These psychologically stimulating options also offer the promise of increased mental productivity in addition to the reduced cost of medical care for healthy employees who exercise.
For more physical positions, calisthenics and other preventative and stamina-building exercises should be taught and time should be given to employees to perform them. Your choice of an exercise program should reflect not only your companies health needs, but your organization’s culture as well.
The state of Nebraska instituted a comprehensive and highly successful wellness program that put a high priority on preventative medicine. Their tactics are working because according to the case study on their program they’ve seen a “$4.2 million reduction in claims, best-in-class participation rates and a majority of employees [are] touting how the program has improved their lives.”
Preventative measures and coverage they’ve instituted include free biometric screenings, covered blood work up to $500, covered preventive screenings with no age-restrictions, fully-covered mammograms, fully-covered colonoscopies, and cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes medications offered at a reduced co-pay or sometimes covered for generics.
Incentives should vary depending on industry, culture, and overall health of employees. One example of an extremely successful incentive based wellness program is a pilot by Blue Shield of California and Miavita, “Healthy Lifestyle Rewards.” This pilot program offered cash incentives for results from healthy lifestyle changes. Out of their 25,000 eligible participants they lost a total of 51,003 pounds and saw a 53% improvement in BMI.
The incentives offered were increasing cash rewards for continued participation and success in the program. Success meant making healthy lifestyle choices and in turn reducing their risk level for health issues. Nebraska chose the method of giving their participants coverage incentive and the results of their program are outstanding, as seen above.
Do wellness plans work?
The rising rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood-pressure, and cholesterol are real. Research from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that 75% of health care spending goes towards diseases that are preventable. Can you afford not to invest in your employees wellness?
Results of some past ROI tracked suggest a range from $1.49 to $13 benefits per dollar invested, depending on the program. It appears if you invest in a solid program, you can’t go wrong in becoming a healthier employer.
The bottom line is that it’s better to be proactive than inactive.
Image courtesy of user “Mr. T in DC” via Flickr Creative Commons.