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Work Place Wellness

Posted Jun 10 2009 1:02pm

Not long ago companies with Wellness Programs were considered innovative.  Today wellness programs should not be considered innovative, rather a core business component.   Investing in employee health is, and will continue to be a priority for companies concerned about managing health insurance expenditures, and employing a healthy workforce.

The health status of the American worker, in my opinion, has become an uncontrolled business expense.   Year after year, companies are faced with rate increases that result in the reduction of benefits, increasing employee contributions, or in some cases reductions in force.  A significant portion of the rate increases can be traced back to the unhealthy habits that many of us have embraced. 

Workplace Wellness – Where to Start

There are two fundamental issues that must be addressed when thinking about initiating a Workplace Wellness Program.  What is the culture of the organization, and what is the desired outcome of a wellness program.  From my experiences, if your workforce is largely inactive implementing a workplace wellness program is a bit more challenging, however if you have an active, vibrant and creative culture, implementing a workplace wellness program can be accomplished with enthusiastic employee participation.  If you have an inactive workforce, investing time upfront in “behavior change” initiatives is critical.  Employees, who have no interest in changing their behavior, will not change!!!  You may have to supportively assist your employees understand that some of their lifestyle behaviors need to change, in order to help themselves or to help the company meet business objective.

What is the Desired Outcome

When a company is thinking about initiating a “Wellness Program”, the long term desired outcome has to be established.  To often an idea is brought up, immediately put into place and then it fails.  It fails because the employees of the organization are probably willing, but are not “able” to make the necessary behavior change. 

Practical Experience: What would I establish as a Desired Outcome ? – This is a highly condensed example.

Desired Outcome StatementThe desired outcome of the wellness initiative is to raise awareness of the effects and costs (physical and monetary) of obesity for both employees and the company. 

Reducing body fat among a group of employees can have an exponential effect towards reducing the amount of medical services a group will use during a plan year.  This reduction in medical service utilization will assist the company minimize future insurance cost increases.

With the ongoing support of all levels of management  (Company) will initiate an introduction to a physical activity program.  This program will consist of:

1. Required consultations with a Health/Wellness Coach.
    a. All employees are expected to complete a physical exam, prior to participating in company 
    sponsored physical activity programs.
2. Required Quarterly “class-room” physical activity educational meetings.
3. Introduction to a “regular” exercise program.  Various programs from beginners to experienced  exercisers will available.  Individual and Groups options will also be available.

Examples of Rewards: (all employees must be given the opportunity to earn the reward)

Employess who participate in the Wellness Progam will be eligible to receive a discount on their employee health plan contribution.

Employees who do not participate in Wellness Program activities will not be eligible for the discount program.

It is very important to involve your legal council in the planning of Wellness Program.  There are numerous federal laws to with the Wellness Program must comply with.  Some of these laws include: ADA, ADEA, ERISA, also Wellness Program must comply with HIPPA Nondiscrimation Rules.

Sensitivity and Support:
Throughout the entire process of introducing a wellness program, sensitivity and support are critical.  Keep in mind, small changes across an entire group of employees can result in tremendous benefits for everyone involved.

For more information on wellness ideas consult with your Employee Assistance Provider, inquire about company sponsored events, or search for community based wellness initiatives.

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