Workplace wellness programs: Finding the recipe for success

April 12, 2016

Ask a hundred different gourmet chefs how to make your favorite dish and you’ll likely get a hundred different answers. Each chef has his or her own special recipe, choice of ingredients, and unique way of creating the same thing. Experimenting sometimes produces a winner – and sometimes not.

Workplace wellness programs are similar. Talk to a hundred different employers and you’ll likely get a hundred different opinions. Long touted as a hedge against spiraling healthcare and insurance costs, these programs have come under increased scrutiny in recent years.

So do workplace wellness programs actually lower healthcare costs and create healthier work environments?

That depends on who you ask. While most employers haven’t seen the kind of cost savings and return on investment these programs initially promised, many report positive results, and workplace wellness programs continue to gain popularity. In fact, many employers today see them as essential for attracting and retaining the best talent, creating a healthier work environment, and getting the most productivity out of employees.

But why are results among employers so diverse? The short answer is different recipes – not all of them successful.

Finding the ingredients for success

Too many employers still take a haphazard approach to workplace wellness. They randomly toss in ingredients they believe will be popular, throw something together just to have a wellness program and don’t commit, or plug in a cookie cutter program and hope for the best.

Those are all recipes guaranteed to leave a bad taste in your mouth about wellness programs.

The key to a successful wellness program is to take a measured approach (set goals and find out what your employees want), get the right recipe (the right mix of products, education, and activities), and commit to continuous evaluation and improvement (incorporating old and new). You want a recipe that will enhance the “main dish” – your overall corporate culture – rather than distract from it.

Let’s see how these ingredients can help you whip up a winning recipe:

  • Take a measured approach. A cookie cutter wellness program won’t produce results. You need to define concrete goals and find out what your workers want in wellness options. According to a 2015 survey of employees published by Quantum Workplace and Limeade, employees want benefits that address overall well-being, not just their physical health, such as time off to recharge, parenting classes, leadership training, onsite massages, fitness classes, and other work-life balance benefits. Getting their opinion also shows you care about their well-being, which can boost engagement and retention.
  • Get the right recipe. The face of workplace wellness has changed dramatically. While traditional programs have largely centered around lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, weight loss, and dietary changes, today’s employees want plenty of options and convenience. They want work-life balance benefits that fit their lifestyle; education and advice about their health and well-being; and activities they can participate in easily and conveniently.
  • Continuously evaluate and improve. You need to know what’s working and what isn’t and make adjustments accordingly. Look beyond return on investment (ROI) and focus on value of your investment (VOI), paying attention to key metrics such as healthcare costs, productivity, engagement, risk factors such as obesity and tobacco use, patterns of absence, and worker safety factors such as workers’ compensation claims and short-term disability claims. In addition to tried-and-true initiatives such as programs that address diabetes and other chronic conditions, embrace innovations and new trends such as initiatives that address hearing and vision, sleep deprivation, and financial wellness.

Finally, don’t forget one crucial ingredient: the expert advice of a knowledgeable partner. Call Heffernan Insurance Benefit Advisory Services today. We’ve got the recipe for your wellness program success.