Employers are facing a difficult predicament: They are attempting to engage and retain employees and bring in new talent using benefits, while at the same time trying to decrease healthcare costs.

Luckily, employers can work to address these critical needs simultaneously utilizing a wellness strategy. In addition to ensuring a company is both healthy and happy, a wellness strategy typically has a ROI of $1.50-$3 per dollar spent over a two- to nine-year timeframe. By placing a focus on employee wellness, employers often report a myriad of benefits, from increased productivity to decreased healthcare expenses and even improved employee morale.

Here are four best practices for establishing and executing a wellness strategy.

1. Enlist a company’s leadership team

Company leaders, including C-suite executives, should actively participate in employee wellness programs instead of simply buying in and approving them. They can do so in a variety of ways, from challenging someone in a walking competition to motivating others to increase their water consumption. Whatever their specific activities, by actively engaging in a wellness program, company leaders can act as an X-factor and encourage employee participation company-wide.

Wellness programs are most effective when company leaders guide by example to make their employees healthier physically and mentally, ensuring employee engagement across the company.

2. Offer purposeful incentives for employee engagement

Meaningful incentive design is key for employee wellness engagement, and incentives should act in accordance with company goals. Whether related to finances, culture or growth, it should showcase that the employer believes employee health is of the utmost importance.

For example, OurHealth co-developed an incentive plan with a client to create improvement-focused goals to mitigate their employee population issue of high Body Mass Index (BMI). Decreasing BMI helps decrease the likelihood for serious health conditions which are often associated with being overweight, including stroke, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and heart disease.

Employers can offer incentives such as a discount on an insurance premium or even a contribution to an HSA, but they aren’t limited to being healthcare-specific. Employers can use gift cards, prizes of all types or tickets for concerts, festivals and local community events as a method for motivating employees.

3. Develop a work environment that supports wellness

Employers must keep wellness top of mind and make healthy choices the easy choices for employees to actively participate in a wellness program. Fortunately, there are several ways that employers can make this part of their company’s DNA.

For example, employers can stock healthy food in the kitchen, make water readily available, provide a bicycle post so employees can engage in a healthy commuter option and post signs near the elevator to remind employees about the health benefits of taking the stairs. Company leaders can even encourage meetings to take place while walking outside instead of sitting in a company conference room.

As a method of further advancing the importance of health in the workplace, many wellness programs now address topics such as mental health and emotional well-being as well. As an option for making the whole family healthy, companies also can consider extending their wellness program to impact the health of spouses and dependents.

4. Communicate consistently with employees

It’s important that employers engage in clear, ongoing communication with employees about health topics for executing a successful wellness program. One communication plan won’t fit for every company, though. Communication plans should be specifically designed based on the needs of their population, with the applicable message and method custom-made for each organization. Strong wellness programs weave company messaging into as many communication platforms as possible including any internal communications, whether it’s on a flyer in the conference room, during annual benefits enrollment meetings or within monthly corporate newsletters. There are endless options.

Wellness strategies increase employee well-being and save on healthcare, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t be implemented. Utilizing the above best practices will help attract talent, engage employees and reduce overall costs.

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