“Wellness” is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days, but what is a workplace wellness program exactly?

A “wellness program” can be many things, from a simple biometric screening allowing employees to know their numbers and take control of their own health to an elaborate plan that begins with screenings and includes ongoing education, activities, and financial incentives to help employees achieve their health goals. The goal of all these plans is the same: to make the workplace a healthier, happier environment for all. And happy and healthy employees mean a better business for you.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

Naturally, employers are interested in premium cost reduction. It’s possible that wellness programs can achieve that, but the return on investment takes time. Employers will need to be fully committed, patient and engaged in the process in order to see results in the bottom line over the long-term.

While wellness programs aren’t a quick fix for decreasing healthcare costs, a well-implemented wellness program can provide several immediate results:

  • Giving employees the tools they need to get healthy
  • Reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity due to better health
  • Bringing employees together and motivating them to communicate and exercise outside of their usual work routines

Not all wellness plans are created equally, however. Here are the steps for developing a company wellness plan that will have a big impact:

1. First, determine the needs of the employer and the employees. A common problem with wellness plans is that they are often tailored to the needs of the company. Employees will see straight through a plan that isn’t built around their needs and will only participate begrudgingly and half-heartedly.

2. Decide on the level of commitment, as well as the financial obligation you are willing to make as a company. A culture of wellness won’t happen without management reinforcement.

3. Create a plan based on these determinations.

4. Designate a “champion” to keep everyone motivated and to coordinate activities.

5. Create a communication plan and launch the program.

6. Evaluate the plan quarterly, making any necessary tweaks to ensure the program is on track. A stagnant wellness program will not be effective and will have the reverse effect on morale.

All of these things contribute to an overall better functioning and more productive workplace. The key is noticing the subtle differences as they start to appear within the organization. The effort it takes to implement a workplace wellness program goes a long way to show employees that their company really cares about them and their well-being, which is an instant return on investment.

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