Making Your Wellness Program More Effective

Harvard researchers estimate that for every dollar an organization spends on a wellness program, it can save $3.27 on medical costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs. In today's economy, employers are watching every dollar they spend on benefits. Here are some suggestions for maximizing the benefits of a wellness program:

Keep spending on wellness. Even during the recession, a study showed that more than half of companies are maintaining or increasing spending on wellness initiatives.

Make wellness a priority. Employment services firm Manpower found that employees are eight times more likely to be engaged in their work when employers regularly promote wellness activities. Employees said that wellness programs help them to be more creative and innovative.

Make wellness a recruiting and retention tool. Another study found that 45% of employees working for small and midsize companies consider wellness benefits a reason to stay in their jobs. Their favorite wellness perks: on-site fitness rooms, discounts on gym memberships, and at-work weight-loss programs.

Build in some competition. Team training and friendly contests among employees build peer pressure and social support, and keep employees engaged in wellness programs.

Clean out the fridge. Encourage healthy eating by making it easy for employees to get their hands on healthy food while they are at work. Offer healthy snacks and lunches in vending machines and on-site cafeterias.

Pay for smoking cessation aids. The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends giving smokers access to counselors, plus prescription and over-the-counter stop-smoking medicines such as nicotine patches. The CDC estimates that 24 % of employers offer coverage for smoking cessation treatment. It costs between 10 cents and 40 cents per month per employee to provide the benefit.

Include mental health wellness. A mental health component addressing depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and stress can help reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, and lower overall health claims as well.

Remind employees often about their wellness benefits. Segment your employees by demographics like gender, age, and their stage of life. Then send targeted messages about health care and wellness programs directly to them.

Get managers' support. Managers can make it easy (or not) for employees to participate in your organization's wellness effort. After all, they are the ones most directly responsible for approving flexible schedules, reducing workplace stress, and encouraging participation in wellness programs.
Measure results. One survey of midsize and large companies with wellness programs revealed that only 40% of these companies can calculate their return on investment. Enlist the help of your health care or wellness provider. They probably have the tools to measure changes in employee health risks and dips in health care costs, as well as calculating cost-to-savings ratios.

Be patient. Even the best wellness programs don't immediately deliver bottom-line results. A Duke University study found that it took two years before a company's weight-loss program started to drive down health care costs.

SESCO Management Consultants is available to assist with your human resource issues. You may contact us by phone at 423-764-4127 or by email at sesco@sescomgt.com .