Wellness Strategies for Employers
"Wellness" encompasses a wide spectrum of programs ranging from simply offering a health risk assessment to a shift in workplace culture driven from the top of the organization. The good news is an employer has lots of choices about the wellness programs that might work best for its workforce. Many employers implement a program in multiple phases, adding a new component each year or two.
Assessing the Problem
The first step is for an employer to try to understand the sources of its problem. What are the key drivers of chronic conditions in the employer's workforce? Obesity? Stress and depression? Drug use? An employer might provide incentives for employees to complete health risk assessments or analyze medical plan claims data to look for patterns. Once the employer understands the problem, they can begin developing a targeted solution.
Implementing an Effective Solution
The most effective wellness programs will do all three of the following:
- Keep healthy employees healthy;
- Encourage employees with at-risk health factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure) to make better lifestyle choices; and
- Direct employees with chronic conditions (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, or asthma) to disease management programs.
Examples of Wellness Programs
Some wellness programs are implemented at the worksite while others are offered in connection with the employer's health plan. An employer may implement a combination of these strategies.
Click on the following to see examples of each:
- Worksite wellness programs
- Diet groups
- Diet counseling
- Including healthy food options in an employer's on-site cafeteria
- Exercise breaks
- Pedometer challenges for either individuals or groups
- Restrictions on smoking on the premises
- Lunch and learns on various health topics
- Gym memberships
- On-site workout facilities
- Employee assistance programs that provide counseling on a number of topics, such as financial issues, stress, family problems, etc.
- On-site medical clinics providing allergy shots, preventive care, treatment of colds, etc.
- Health fairs providing on-site screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, vision and hearing; free flu shots; etc.
- Office-wide challenge to lose 10 pounds with prizes for anyone who reaches the goal
- Biggest loser competitions
- Paid time off to participate in these programs
- Wellness programs offered with a health plan
- Disease management programs
- Education provided by the health plan (e.g., available online or "pushed" to the employee by the third party administrator based on claims history)
- Reductions in deductibles or other financial incentives for participating in various programs
- Reductions in premiums for non-smokers
- Implementation of consumer driven health plans (e.g., high deductible health plan with an HRA or HSA) to encourage individual engagement in their health and to improve awareness of the link between the choices employees make and the cost of health care
- Health risks assessments, used to inform individuals about risks to their health (often with referrals to other employer-paid services, like visiting a nutritionist, calls from a nurse with a disease management program, or education about the risks of smoking)
- Smoking cessation programs
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