LAS VEGAS--We've heard it before: Wellness programs are on the rise.
(In fact, new research out this week from SHRM confirmed that wellness programs are continuing to grow in prevalence in workplaces around the country.)
Still some employers just aren't jumping on the bandwagon, or are slow to implement programs in their workplaces.
But it's time to act.
"You can't do it all overnight," Charlie Estey, executive vice president at Interactive Health, told benefits and HR professionals during a session Tuesday at the Society for Human Resource Management's annual conference.
"You have to determine what you are working for and what you are solving for," he said.
He explored 10 reasons why and how workplaces should implement wellness programs.
Without further ado, here are 10 reasons to consider employee wellness as a corporate strategy, according to Estey.
1. Employee health affects organizational health. Simply put, a healthy workforce is in a company's best interest: it helps productivity, reduces health care costs, and prevents absenteeism. As chronic illness continues to be on the rise, "someone has got to step up and help prevent this," Estey said.
2. The worksite is a great place to promote health. In a workplace, you have your employees in one place, so it's the perfect opportunity to promote healthy behaviors. But it also allows you to reach remote employees, as well as their spouses. "You can reach spouses and dependents," Estey said. "It's just a perfect place to practice health...and to impact anxiety. I think in the next few years, workplace wellness will focus on anxiety," Estey said.
Estey told HR managers they should consider creating "Wellness Champions" in the workplace who can lead on some of the initiatives. It's also about starting small: Including healthy snacks in the vending machine at work, along with the candy bars; have water bottles available to employees, and encourage walks.
3. It creates better results. Integration of all health benefits creates better results. It's important to get all your health care partners on the same team.
"You have to work together; you can't be siloed. Each vendor or partner has to understand the importance of what you're doing," Estey said. "A lot of employees need to leverage all the resources so working together has to be a requirement. Help them understand what you're doing."
Estey said to do this, you need to set up regular meetings with all partners together.
4. Wellness, business strategy aligns. Align wellness initiatives with business needs. Identify where you are and where you want to be on the wellness spectrum. Ask yourself, Estey said, "how can your wellness program help you achieve strategic company goals?"
"You need to align those needs throughout the year--and report on it," he said.
5. It helps connect employers with the community. Having a wellness strategy in the workplace can help position your employer positively within the community, Estey said.
Expand your company's wellness culture by supporting community health efforts: participate in local walks and runs; work with nonprofits; work with a local health coalition.
"You really have to have the community integration," Estey said. "This can be a key component influencing how people feel about you."
6. Your employees needs are unique. Remember that not all wellness programs should be the same. "There are some who don't want to do Weight Watchers and don't want to do a spin class, so you have to tailor it to their needs," Estey said. "You've got to find a way to make [wellness] interesting to [employees.]"
Find out what kind of exercise or recreation your C-suite or employees enjoy and consider incorporating it into your program. Maybe it's golf, skiing, rollerblading, or cycling.
"[Wellness] can't be this general thing, you really have to understand what it means for each person."
Estey encouraged benefits managers to survey all employees about their interests and needs and offer those options within the wellness program.
7. It's a good, constant strategy. Health plans may change, but wellness strategy should remain consistent, Estey said. Maintain continuity and avoid disruptions in your wellness program, even if you change carriers, Estey advised. Maintain data each year.
8. Incentives can be very influential. And not just any incentive--but strategic incentives. Incentives can help motivate employees to begin the wellness journey. Incentives are on the rise among employers: According to the National Business Group on Health, 86 percent of employers offer wellness-based incentives.
"Companies are ready to financially reward employees for healthy behaviors. Incentives can be key--definitely."
Some incentives may include: gift cards, time off, money, tickets, a decrease in premiums. "It's really specific to the culture and the community you serve. If you're in Green Bay, maybe you are raffling off a suite for a Packers game. Or if you're in Indiana, you can offer tickets to the Indianapolis 500."
9. It gets everyone involved. Leadership support is required for success. To have wellness success, it's vital to get your C-suite involved. That way, it helps build a culture of health from the top down. "Find out what your leader likes in terms of activity or exercise and get an expert to talk about it," Estey suggested. "And then get your leader to invite the other employees to join him or her."
"It's a little aggressive but it will work," he said. "If you don't have the support of your CEO, you're going to run into a problem," Estey said.
10. Wellness works. Perhaps the most important thing to consider about wellness is this: It works. Numerous studies prove it. Worksite health promotion programs can generate positive ROI for medical and absenteeism-related savings, he explained.
"The cost impact is there," he said. "It just makes good business sense."