Over the years, many articles and studies have explored theeffectiveness of wellness programs. For every one that saysthey're great and wonderful, there's another one thatsays they're completely useless. So, who's right?

|

Recently, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignattempted to clear the air with a comprehensive year-long study to get to thebottom of it once and for all. The results weren't pretty. In fact,they found no significant effects on medical expenditures, healthbehaviors, or productivity.

Plot twist

I guess that means it's game over for us and we might as wellpack it up and call it a day. But there's just one catch: whilethese findings may seem to provide a final verdict on wellnessprograms and have the naysayers shouting, “I told you so,” theresearch actually syncs up with our own internal data. Studies likethis are always going to be flawed, because one year just isn'tenough time to show meaningful results or significant cost savings. As a matter of fact,many companies see an increase in medical spending during the firsttwo years as program members become more aware of health issues andvisit their physicians more often

|

As a wellness provider, we're constantly tasked with proving howour programs control costs and help employees get healthy. Whatwe've discovered time and time again is that it typically takesthree years or more—along with an intense, focused, and sustainedeffort—before experiencing the cost benefits of a healthierworkforce.

|

Unfortunately, many of these studies are built on a weak premisethat asking employees to complete an assessment, a screening, andsome basic activities—then throwing a few dollars at theparticipants—is enough to move the needle on wellness. But it'sjust not that easy.

|

As a tenured wellness provider who has designed and implementedmany wellness programs over the years, we've learned there is nosingle one-size-fits-all solution that will work for everyorganization. We've found that the most successful programs havesome commonalities that, when combined, can make all thedifference. It takes time and commitment, but it is simple.

Make wellness a genuine priority

The reality is that health and wellness just isn't a toppriority to the average employee. But who can blame them? You knowwhat their day is like. They're more focused on conquering the taskat hand rather than counting up the calories they ate forbreakfast. Changing that mentality is difficult, and it often meansmaking big adjustments to company priorities. What that means isthat implementing a program that operates on autopilot, thencalling it a day just isn't going to cut it. 

|

Building a workplace culture of wellness is every bit asdifficult as it sounds. But that's where the win lies. And one ofthe best things you can do—especially if you're in a position ofauthority—is to lead by example. After all, no one is going tothrow their back into the effort if you, as a leader, aren'twilling to do it first. Which brings me to the next point…

Incentivize participation and success

Wellness incentives are nothing new. The aforementioned studyused incentives, and it didn't make much difference. But the thingis, everyone is motivated differently. To some, time is preciousand worth more than money. Others crave the recognition and respectof their peers. And there are always going to be those thatsincerely believe good health is its own reward.

|

Finding incentives that truly motivate your team to put forth aneffort can prove that you're fully committed to their well-being.And it can go a long way toward tilting the odds of success in yourfavor. Gift cards, perks, extra paid time off, premium discounts, apremium parking spot, etc., are all excellent options. You knowyour team better than anyone else. Choose wisely.

Commit to the long game

Anyone who's put in the work and gotten into shape can tell you:it's all about those baby steps. That's why many experts suggeststarting out slowly and making gradual improvements as you go. Yourwellness program is no different.

|

etting started with a gung-ho, all guns blazing attitude mayseem like the right thing to do—especially when there's so muchwork to be done. But that approach may not be ideal. Instead, youwant to introduce the program by gaining awareness andparticipation during that first year. Then, once your employees areon board, you can introduce new elements, and then take a moreoutcomes-based approach. Momentum is a powerful ally. So, use it toyour advantage and build on your program from year to year.

|

As health care costs continue to rise, it's important foremployers to continue exploring new ways to control costs andimprove the employee experience.  Our data shows us thatclients who have smartly designed incentives, and a clear pathwayon what health outcomes they want to achieve get the best resultsover a multi-year timeframe.  Success does not happenimmediately, it takes time.  While the cynics try todownplay the impact of workplace wellness, the rest of us will bebusy working on solutions and enjoying the benefits of buildinghealthier and happier workplace cultures.

|

 

|

 

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.