Corporate Wellness- Just a Buzz Word?Angela Manzanares
November 14, 2008 — 2,425 views
Not anymore.With nearly 48% of our waking hours spent at work, coupled with America's ranking as the world's fattest nation, corporate wellness is not just a fluffy HR benefit - it's a business necessity that has far-reaching implications for corporations, their employees and society as a whole. Few will debate the profound effect a wellness program can have on the bottom-line-both literally and figuratively. It's a no-brainer for most employers: healthy employees add up to a happier, more productive workforce, resulting in lower health claims and decreased costs for employers, and a subsequent ROI on wellness programs. The real challenge is implementation and employee participation.
Read on to discover:
- Three Key Questions to Consider When Implementing a Corporate Wellness Program
- Four Ways to Boost Employee Participation in Your Corporate Wellness Program
Three Key Questions to Consider When Implementing a Corporate Wellness Program
Adding a wellness component to a corporate benefits plan may sound like a great idea -but it can be administratively complex to implement and manage. Here's the skinny on what you need to consider if you really want your program to pack a powerful punch:
1. What can your company afford to invest in its wellness program? Okay, deep breath, this may make you break a sweat: The Business Roundtable reports that in 2007 almost 40 percent of large companies in the US spend more than $200,000 annually and 20 percent spend at least $1 million on corporate wellness. Yes, that's a lot, but consider what it costs in employee productivity and absenteeism if you don't help employees optimize their health and well-being. In fact, a 2007 study conducted by the Milken Institute found that lowering the obesity rates alone could produce productivity gains of $254 billion and avoid $60 billion in treatment expenditures annually for companies.
2. Do you have the tools and staff to implement a successful program? A benefits management system must be in place to support a corporate wellness program and companies must have the tools and technology to track participation, issue rewards, and adjust health plan premium payments accordingly. You may need to consider investing in additional HR staff or outsourcing the benefits administration to an organization that already has the tools, processes, and procedures in place to integrate a wellness program with your existing benefits program. You want your HR staff to focus on running an effective program instead of worrying about logistics. Learn more about outsourcing your benefits management at www.secova.com.
3. How will you measure program effectiveness and ROI - or will you invest those dollars in making employees healthier? Wellness programs have been shown to produce an overall return on investment of 1.5:1 to 3:1 after three to five years, meaning that for every dollar invested in wellness, employers can expect to save between $1.50 to $3.00 (Human Resource Executive 2007). But you must decide what approach you want to take when it comes to investing money in measuring your program's ROI. A survey conducted in 2006 by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, shows that 87 percent of 464 benefits professionals and plan sponsors didn't know the ROI of their programs. On average, 5 to 10 percent of a wellness program's cost is spent measuring ROI and program effectiveness. Proof is out there that wellness programs have significant ROI for companies; however, companies must determine what approach they want to take regarding investing dollars in the measurability of their programs' return on investment. This issue of measuring ROI brings up an important question: where do you want to spend your dollars? Calculating ROI or focusing on making employees healthier? A number of companies actively supporting very successful wellness initiatives have opted not to track detailed ROI. But beware: according to most in the "C" suite, if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Measuring the overall wellness program effectiveness from a dollars perspective may be necessary to ensure that the programs continue to receive buy-in (read: budget) from upper- management.
Four Ways to Boost Employee Participation in Your Corporate Wellness Program
Merely offering corporate wellness programs doesn't result in the ROI that executives want to see. The challenge is increasing employee participation since higher participation results in greater ROI. Here are four effective strategies to move employees beyond their same old routine:
1. Offer Incentives & Rewards Let's face it - most people need help getting motivated, which is why Americans are in the physical shape that we're in today. Companies can drive participation in wellness programs through extrinsic motivation such as incentives (both negative and positive) and rewards. Want to get an employee initially engaged? Negative incentives will do the job (for example, charging employees an additional $25 premium on their monthly benefit contribution if they do not take their Health Risk Assessment). But for ongoing participation, you'll find positive incentives and rewards to be most beneficial. Then, once employees see results, they develop intrinsic motivation. Some companies are offering rewards such as discounted insurance premiums, expanded benefits, or even cash. The primary goal? Immediate gratification so employees experience instant results for their participation.
2. Engage 1-on-1 Engaging employees on a one-on-one basis is key to further developing intrinsic motivation where they actually want to be healthier. While incentives and rewards are highly effective in engaging employees, real change happens when individuals set personal goals and commit to achieving them. Companies can foster this by offering a more personal approach where employees work to develop personal, measurable goals that can be rewarded. For example, employers can offer consulting sessions with certified health coaches or even personal training sessions targeted at meeting that employee's goals.
3. Foster a Healthy Environment From providing on-site fitness facilities and nutritional consulting, to offering healthy snack options in vending machines, the corporate environment needs to embrace a healthy approach to living. Media powerhouse Discovery Communications offers an on-site Wellness Center that offers a full range of primary care services from urgent care to preventive care and other wellness services, all offered to employees and their dependents at no charge. Other perks at Discovery: on-site massage therapy, fitness classes, nutritional counseling, life coaching, employee support groups, and company-wide body challenge competitions - to name a few. "Discovery's philosophy," says Evelyne Steward, Vice President Global Wellness & Work Life Strategies, "is that we must take responsibility for creating win-win partnerships with our employees in support of their health." Employees need to see that wellness is not merely an initiative - but a way of life.
4. Provide the Tools Internal corporate wellness campaigns should be implemented to increase participation and provide employees with the information to be successful. Take Chevron Canada, for example. Senior executives launched a 10k-a-Day program to promote employees taking 10,000 steps per day. To promote participation, Chevron provided all employees with a pedometer and will kick off 2009 by providing employees with a fitbook, a fitness and nutrition journal, to track their progress. Employees set personal goals and are rewarded with Chevron Bucks for completing their fitbook and reaching their goals. Education is an option employers should offer. And it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive- consider on-site health presentations, workshops, or even lunch-time webinars.
The Bottom Line: Beyond ROI
The tangible benefits of corporate wellness initiatives are clear: reduced costs, lower absenteeism, improved productivity, and overall ROI. What cannot be measured is the value that employers can add to their employee's lives every day by not only giving them a paycheck, but providing them with an opportunity to improve and enhance their own lives. The Dow Chemical Company embraces the idea that improving corporate financial performance is not the key driver behind its corporate wellness initiatives. Gary Billotti, Global Leader of Health & Human Performance at Dow, views corporate wellness as an "investment in our people versus a cost of doing business." Billotti explains that their primary goal is to support their employees in optimizing their health and performance both at home and at work, knowing that "if we support our people the financial results will come." So here's the bottom line - plain and simple: corporate wellness is a must. So consider this a challenge to get out there and make a difference in the lives of your employees -and your own.
About the Author
Angela Manzanares, MBA, CPT, is the founder of fitlosophy, inc., a company dedicated to providing innovative fitness tools to revolutionize the way we integrate health and wellness into our lives. www.getfitbook.com