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Get Going on Employee Wellness: One of the Most Cost-Effective Initiatives You Can Take


One of the HR hot buttons this year touches on the question of employee wellness, and whether or not it’s a worthwhile investment for company resources.


Truth be told, the ROI on employee wellness programs is still a bit of a tricky one to quantify, in part because wellness as a concept is an ever expanding one – as time goes on, more and more components go into its definition.


With the hectic and stressed pace of modern life, coupled with longer lifespans and an aging workforce, it makes good humanitarian sense to have employee wellness on the radar, but it is so much more than doing your employees a favor – a concern with employee wellness has been tied to improved staff health, productivity, and morale.


Furthermore, findings from 56 studies on worksite wellness programs that were published in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed an average 27 percent reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26 percent reduction in health care costs (every dollar invested in a company employee wellness program returned $6 in annual health care savings), and 32 percent reduction in workers’ compensation and disability management cost claims.


Beginning an employee wellness program might seem like a daunting task to tackle, but it makes good business sense, and the sooner you get started, the better.  The best part is, it doesn’t even need to involve a huge financial investment!  As always, it’s the little things that count most.


Here’s how to get started:


  1. Assess employee wellness needs – Put together a balanced committee that represents the interests of employees and management alike (even if it’s just two people).  Distribute a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) among your employees to realistically gauge risk factors in their lifestyles (smoking, exercise, eating, etc.  Be mindful of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) regulations while gathering data for an HRA). Take an employee survey about what might interest them in a wellness program, what their concerns are, and what their availability to participate is.


  1. Get buy-in from your employees – Make sure they know that a wellness initiative is not just about getting incentives from the company insurer, but that it will benefit them as well, in the long run.  Employee wellness is not just about physical health, but also about emotional, psychological, and even spiritual health.


  1. Brainstorm with employees for solutions – It would be great if every company could install an in-house gym and hire a full-time trainer, but it doesn’t have to be that dramatic.  Get further buy-in from your employees by having your committee brainstorm with them about what practices can be adopted to help with wellness efforts, e.g., healthy food for meetings, smoking cessation incentives, pedometer challenges to encourage more walking, etc.  See if your company can get a group rate at the local gym.


  1. Screenings and in-house medical services – Time is valuable, and if employees can get their blood pressure tested, or get flu shots, or get screened for cancer during their lunch break without having to leave, all the better.  Plus, it’s something your staff can have fun doing together.


  1. Put the program in writing and put a plan in place to evaluate – Everything improves once you begin to measure it.  Plan on evaluating the program periodically and measuring employee progress.  Get employee feedback regularly.


An employee wellness program is a win-win scenario, that makes good fiscal sense from a management standpoint, and is also veritably beneficial for the employees themselves in the long-term.  It’s also a great opportunity to help bolster employee-management communication and relationships.


Want more ideas to support a wellness program?

  •  Wellness newsletter
  •  Office walking/exercise groups/fitness challenges
  •  Workshops on wellness issues
  •  Healthy potluck lunches and healthy snacks for meetings and breaks
  •  Physical activity breaks
  •  Group fitness or yoga classes/gym memberships
  •  Smoking cessation classes and incentives
  •  Company sponsored incentives such as water bottles, gym bags, healthy cookbooks, and pedometers, employee parties for reaching fitness goals, etc.


Some Resources for Implementing an Employee Wellness Program 

A checklist for implementing an HRA, from the CDC


A Brief Summary of the HIPPA Privacy Rule


A guide to workplace health promotion practices from the Partnership for Prevention


A specific step-by-step guide to creating an employee wellness program from Hope Health



What does your employee wellness program look like?  Drop us a line! We’d love to hear what is working for you!

  • Jonathan W. Crowell