Monday, November 3, 2014

Characteristics of Successful Wellness Programs, Part 1

Wellness programs are proven to be an effective tool in lowering the cost of healthcare, boosting company moral and improving employee self esteem. According to Don Powell, president and CEO of American Institute for Preventive Medicine, companies that place a strong emphasis on wellness programs have proven to be more successful.
© Prikhodko

Unfortunately, there are some challenges associated with implementing a workplace wellness program, including low participation, employee engagement and resistance from upper level management. To help alleviate these issues Powell has identified 20 characteristics for successful employee wellness programs including support of key leadership, good communication and employee education.

Here are the first ten.

1) Health is a core business value. Companies that list health as a priority tend to have the most successful wellness programs Powell says. “Companies that are truly committed to comprehensive health and productivity programs will even have the health and well-being of employees as part of their mission statement,” he says.

2) Leadership involvement. Company leadership sets an example of good health. Active participation from leaders will encourage employee involvement.

3) Grassroots wellness champions. Anyone in the organization who has a strong interest in wellness can act as a leader for the rest of the organization.

4) Employees are proactively encouraged to access resources to live healthy lifestyles. Successful companies offer resources to encourage a healthy lifestyle as well as create a culture that allows employees to participate in wellness activities both on and off company time. 

5) Workplace environment. Workplace wellness initiatives are enhanced by an environment that makes it easy, convenient and acceptable to engage in healthy behavior. Incorporating healthy snack options in vending machines or offering heart-healthy options in the cafeteria can help create an environment that makes wellness the default option in the organization.

6) Program is branded. Creating a brand, whether it’s the name of the program, the tagline or the colors, helps employees recognize the programs available to them.

7) Multiple components. Companies that host multiple wellness events that provide a full array of activities experience the greatest return on investment for their wellness programs when compared to just one event, Powell says.

8) Communications materials. In addition to an array of activities, successful wellness programs are communicated using multiple communication methods, including emails, newsletters, calendars, posters, brochures and social media. In a large organization with multiple worksites, communication materials aid management in maintaining a consistent message that can reach all employees.

9) Maximize member participation. Use a variety of communication methods to publicize the program to engage employees and achieve the greatest level of participation. Communication with workers about wellness must be done on an ongoing, consistent basis to be effective.

10) Assessment activities. Assessments can help employers determine how unhealthy or healthy their teams are. Employers can use assessments as a tool to gauge the overall heath of the organization or to learn what motivates employees. 

Powell suggests these tips can aid organizations in the development and implementation of a high-performing, wellness program.