Employee Wellness Program

Employee Wellness Programs

Employee Wellness Programs

An employee wellness program can contain a wide array of services with different levels of employee wellness program intensity and employee involvement.

The primary goal is to design an employee wellness program that matches your corporate culture and financial constraints to do the following:

  • Address the specific health concerns associated with your employee population.
  • Provide results in an effective manner.
  • Encourage ongoing employee involvement and training on preventive health and lifestyle choices. The world is your oyster in determining what programs to use to accomplish these broad program goals.

Employee Wellness Program Elements

Employee wellness program components may include any or all of the following:

  • Health Wellness Newsletters
  • Educational Health and Wellness Handouts
  • Cover yearly Influenza (Flu) vaccinations.
  • Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) for individual evaluation and analysis.
  • Employee Biometric Testing (heart rate, blood pressure, flexibility, BMI, etc.).
  • Employee Health Screening / Blood Tests (cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose levels, and so on).
  • Tobacco cessation seminars.
  • Nutrition education seminars.
  • Stress management seminars.
  • Disease Management Programs.
  • Electronic targeted intervention education (for diabetes management, nutrition education, cholesterol and blood pressure).
  • Work / Life Programs / Employee Assistance Programs.
  • Wellness coach / health coach programs.

Employee Wellness Program Statistics

Employers want to encourage workers to make better lifestyle choices. Watson Wyatt documented the results of a Wellness survey in June 2005. The survey had 365 respondents, and it provides a good glimpse of the corporate wellness programs businesses are adopting:

  • 62% of survey respondents have started to place greater emphasis on staff health through wellness programs. Another 33% are considering an employee wellness program but have not implemented one.
  • 64% of those who had started an employee wellness program cited increasing health care cost as a prime factor in deciding to implement a wellness initiative. Another 34% stated it was a contributing factor but not the primary reason for starting an employee wellness program.
  • 88% of respondents responded that they used the following efforts to create a healthier company:
    • 56% provided tobacco cessation programs.
    • 43% provided subsidized the cost of fitness center memberships.
    • 50% provided worksite exercise facilities.
    • 61% provided health risk assessments.
    • 27% allow employees to use work time to take part in physical activity.
    • 48% provided healthy foods to the on-site cafeteria menu.
    • 27% provided weight loss seminars.
    • 48% sponsored staff weight loss groups.
    • 32% responded “other” which included annual health and wellness fairs, “10k steps a day” walking events with pedometers, many worksite wellness tests, workplace workout programs (yoga, aerobics, nap rooms and so on).

Choosing an employee wellness program that fits your company’s atmosphere is an important step to ensuring your program is successful. Knowing your staff demographics and even their health plan utilization may help you determine which programs will work for your organization. For example, if a high percentage or even half of your employees smoke, a smoking cessation program is a must. If you learn from your health risk appraisals or your claim data that 30% of your respondents take cholesterol lowering medication, nutritional classes and a focus on healthy eating habits will be effective. If your staff demographics follow the average demographics of the United States, a high percentage are either overweight or obese. Healthful eating options and exercise programs will be good initiatives to adopt.

Very few people are in perfect health. Either lifestyle choices or heredity is responsible for our health risks. Educating individuals about their health risks and motivating them to change their lifestyles will help your wellness plan succeed. Health risk assessments with with employee health screening is an essential part of an employee wellness program. The health risk assessment process along with health screenings will provide an overview of an individual’s health status. Many people aren’t aware of their potential risks and don’t understand how their lifestyle choices affect their health.

Many insurance carriers are offering free access to Health Risk Assessments. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offers this service to its members. Should corporations have the Health Risk Assessment conducted by an outside wellness vendor or take advantage of the free service available through their vendors? The adage, you get what you pay for, certainly applies here. If your organization has no plans to launch a formal employee wellness program, encouraging your employees to complete the free Health Risk
Assessments available through the carrier is important. However, the quality of the information available from free Health Risk Assessments and the ones conducted by a wellness vendor onsite with employee health screening are vastly different:

  • After free health risk assessments, 74% of respondents did not know their cholesterol level, their blood pressure and so on. To obtain useful information from these appraisals including the values of these key health indicators is imperative.
  • 32% more respondents in onsite employee health screening tested positive for having tobacco in their system than was self-reported in a free health risk assessment. This indicates a serious gap in actual results and how an individual self-reports behavior.
  • 33% of respondents indicated they were in “good to excellent” health on their self reported health risk assessment even though their employee health screening results indicated they had three or more health risk factors.
  • 28% of respondents self-reported good eating habits even though their employee health screening results indicated dangerously high fat levels in their blood.

The disparity between self-reported behaviors and the results of employee health screening is substantial. Certainly, some individuals are not being straightforward in reporting their lifestyle habits, but others simply do not have the education or awareness of health issues to report their lifestyle choices correctly.

So which approach to an employee wellness program should your organization take? Using an outside vendor for an employee wellness program is more expensive. However, when employee health screening is tied to the health risk assessments, the test results provide more useful feedback than one just recording self-reported lifestyle choices.