Quick Summary: Wellness at the workplace is more than a task—it calls for a company culture shift. Where to start? “Senior level buy-in is a critical first step,” says Ginny Hridel, a wellness program coordinator for the Council of Smaller Enterprises in Ohio. Measuring the potential value of a program will inspire the change, she adds. “Wellness has an impact on all other costs: health insurance, workers’ compensation, absenteeism, just to name a few.”
According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, innovative employers who have “reached a tipping point” with the status quo of offering health insurance without the wellness component said they were investing in educational campaigns and health screenings.
Here are some steps for starting a workplace wellness program that will stick.
Appoint trendsetters. A wellness team of employees can set a positive example and motivate others to participate in the stay-healthy initiative. This task force will also help draft company goals and act as a voice for other workers. “These employees should live the brand of wellness through everything they do in their role at the workplace, and outside of work,” Hridel says.
Create an annual plan. Set reasonable goals based on workplace health concerns. Survey employees and find out what wellness issues interest them and build those into the plan. Expect to spend about $100 per employee, Hridel says. This cost will go toward education, health screenings, and other activities.
Tap resources. Find out if your health insurance broker can link you with a wellness coordinator. Your employees may also have connections. Ask an employee who practices yoga or runs marathons to give presentations. Find out who quit smoking and see if they’ll start a support group. “Getting fellow employees to participate helps begin that culture shift,” Hridel says.
Kick-off a culture change. Focus on the four legs of a successful workplace wellness program:
• Preventive care: Reward employees to get health screenings on their own time, or enlist a vendor to offer the service onsite.
• Education: “Education helps people act later,” Hridel says. Provide lunch-n-learns on health topics such as weight loss, diabetes, or starting a physical activity program.
• Disease management: Recognize common health struggles in your organization and provide resources to help employees cope.
• Action: Now that employees are armed with knowledge, engage them by staging weight loss challenges, healthy eating challenges, and walking programs. “Employees will take information home to spouses and they’ll want a pedometer—it has a trickle down effect,” Hridel says.
• Contact your benefits provider to find out what wellness resources are available.
• Start a wellness buzz around the office and find out which employees could lead the effort.
• Set reasonable goals based on employee interest.
• Recruit employee wellness captains who will champion the cause.
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