Tips for Starting an Employee Wellness Program

employee wellnessIntroduction

Good health is good business. Healthy employees are more productive, and greater productivity increases profits. Unfortunately, over 50% of workplace deaths and disability worldwide occur from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart attacks, and diabetes. These diseases stem from poor lifestyle and diet choices, risk factors well within employees’ control. Since most employees spend 25-30% of their adult lives working, smart employers recognise that establishing employee wellness programs is an excellent way to reduce chronic diseases. Wellness programs focus on preventative measures and encourage employees to assume responsibility for their health. Employees’ participation in these programs reduces a company’s healthcare costs and increases productivity. If you’re interested in how you can start an employee wellness program, please consider the guidelines below.

Define your goals and expectations

What are your desired outcomes? Which risk factors do you want to address? What type of program is best for your organisation’s culture and workforce? Economic considerations will influence the scope of your program. For example, the owner of a small auto repair shop might address the risks of chemical exposure and physical hazards through a simple information-only wellness program involving videos, brochures and posters. A large employer, on the other hand, can afford a complex motivational program which includes premium incentives, such as an in-house exercise centre with state-of-the-art equipment and individualised nutritional coaching.

Ensure employee buy-in

Survey your employees to learn their concerns and desires. A well-designed survey will help you customise a wellness program that reflects your employees’ needs. Soliciting your employees’ input communicates respect and increases employee ownership. If your organisation supports unions, obtaining their input is also wise.

Ensure management buy-In

It’s important that senior- and middle-management support whatever wellness program is in place. What does senior management expect? What’s important to other key managers? Once senior management approves the wellness program, management need to tangibly support the program. Providing quality incentives, participating in promotional activities and acknowledging employees’ accomplishments powerfully demonstrate support to employees. When management consistently communicates the same message across all levels of the organisation, it reinforces the organisation’s commitment to wellness.

Offer Incentives

Incentives increase employee participation and motivate long-term behavior changes. Offering a door prize for attending a health webinar is an example of a participation incentive. Discounted health premiums, for example, may motivate employees to achieve a long-term goal of weight loss.

Implement Environmental Changes

Although employee wellness programs focus on the employees responsibility, employers can contribute to their employees’ health by creating healthy work conditions. Evaluate your organisation’s lighting. Are your stairwells well-lit? Consider investing in full-spectrum lighting. Full-spectrum lighting duplicates natural sunlight and reduces eye-strain.

Evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of your wellness program

Assess your program at regular intervals. Some areas to monitor are participant feedback, participation rates, productivity and changes in employee attitudes. Surveys are an excellent method of evaluating your wellness program. Don’t be afraid to modify your program if feedback warrants it.

Starting an employee wellness program requires strategic planning, well-thought-out goals and ongoing evaluation. A wellness program is a waste of money if executed poorly. If executed well, your employees will thank you, and so will your bottom line.

In addition to a wellness program following occupational health and safety laws and regulations can help your business thrive by helping to keep employees productive and reducing health insurance and employee compensation costs. Visit HBA learning Centres to get started with a HBA diploma ohs. OPTIONAL


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Calvin Adams is a small business owner and digital marketing enthusiast.

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