Reduce Healthcare Consumption at Your Organization: Getting Started With a Workplace Wellness Program

Posted in: Employee Benefits

In the Employee Benefits world, we have seen a rise over the past several years of employers recognizing the importance of a healthy workforce. In a recent study published in The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, research suggests a wellness program for employees could improve overall health, job satisfaction and productivity. As a result, an organization can reduce healthcare consumption, which can help control healthcare premiums. The third annual bswift 2012 Wellness and Benefits Administration Benchmarking Study, in conjunction with Employee Benefit News, found that there is a continued increase of employers enhancing their wellness programs to help change employee behavior and move toward improved health outcomes that impact the bottom line. 

We are also seeing that companies that have had wellness programs in place for several years are beginning to incentivize employees (often through credits toward health benefit contributions) to achieve specific biometric targets.  This is a shift towards a more results based wellness approach rather than just a participation approach.

For an employer interested in developing an employee wellness program, there are several easy ways to get started. For example:

  • Begin offering flu shots. This can both help keep your employees healthy and prevent increased absenteeism especially during flu season.
  • Conduct voluntary health risk assessments (HRA) to help you, the employer, determine problem areas and estimate the level of health risk of your workforce. A health risk assessment will provide information such as an employee’s stress levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, physical fitness, smoking and alcohol habits, family history and body mass index. Results from the HRA will help you understand the greatest health exposures facing your organization and allow you to build programs to address your most costly threats. Employers may want to offer incentives to employees to help increase participation.
  • Look at the resources your organization may already have through your health insurance carrier. Depending on the carrier, you may have access to wellness resources such as educational tools and newsletters.
  • Offer preventative health exams and screenings.

In order for an employee wellness program to continue to grow, develop and be a success, three things are necessary:

  1. An internal wellness committee must be established. Human Resources professionals can help initiate a program but will need a team to fully support these efforts.
  2. A budget needs to be created. Investing in your employee wellness program is going to be key to its success. And according to a Harvard study conducted in 2010, medical costs dropped about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, and absentee day costs dropped by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.
  3. Supportive leadership is vital. Wellness messaging needs to be communicated from the top down. Employees need to know that their management cares about having a healthy and productive workforce.

Establishing an employee wellness program will take about a year. After that first year, there are strategic steps employers can take to help continue to move the program forward. Wellness is not a “feel good” initiative for businesses.  It can be an effective strategy to change behavior, increase health and productivity, and ultimately impact medical costs.  If you have any questions about starting an employee wellness program or developing an ongoing strategy for an already instituted program, please feel free to contact me at largenbright@psafinancial.com.

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