Many of my clients are interested in starting a wellness program, but tend to shy away. They are always surprised when I tell them that it is not difficult to implement a wellness program, and better yet, they don’t have to have a large budget to get started! Wellness programs are said to increase employee engagement and retention, reduce absenteeism, raise awareness of health issues, and drive down health care costs. If you are thinking of implementing a wellness program, here are some low-cost tips to help you get started.
How to Start a Low-Cost Wellness Program
Step 1: Assess Your Needs
First, assess your needs. Understand why you are implementing a wellness program and evaluate the needs of your population. This can be as easy as conducting a survey to understand the topics of interest to your employees. You can also examine your health claims to understand the major health concerns of your population, and design programs that will address those needs.
Step 2: Design and Implement
Once you understand the needs of your employees you can begin to design and implement your wellness program. There are many ways to do this. One idea is to pick a theme for the year based on employee interest and/or claim information. Each month or quarter of the year, address one aspect of that theme. For example, if employee feedback called for mental health and budgeting information and the benefit claims information supported weight loss, the theme for the year could be “Healthy You”. Alternatively, address a different concern each quarter. The plan for each quarter could be to address Mental Health, Financial Health, Food and Health, and Exercise and Health.
When creating a wellness program utilize the resources available to you. Connect with your benefits provider, 401k provider, and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to see how they can partner with you. Many times there is no cost to the company. Work with your local hospitals and health departments, local gym and fitness centers. Often it is little to no cost to have representatives come on-site to discuss health issues and how these local resources can assist. Partnering with your local running clubs and wellness centers can be little to no cost. Many of these organizations are more than happy to work with companies and will even offer discounts to employees.
Step 4: Measure The Success
Once you have implemented your program, you want to understand if the program is successful. You can examine absenteeism rates within the organization before and after the wellness program or review benefits claims. Do ask for employee feedback. Understand what employees enjoyed, disliked and ask for suggestions to improve, and other topics of interest to them. Seeing measurable results takes time. It could take 3-5 years to really see measurable changes. Changes in behavior aren’t always immediate.
Implementing wellness programs requires consistency, dedication and fresh ideas so that employees benefit and for high participation/utilization rates. When done properly, wellness programs can be fun, they make the employees happy, raise awareness about wellness and lifestyle issues and contribute to healthier workforce. Here are some other tips my colleague provided as well on How to Make Wellness Programs Work in Small Businesses.