Improve Your Workplace Wellness Program by stop what's not working and investing in what does!Effective workplace wellness programs help companies save money and improve productivity. But the key word is effective. If your wellness program doesn’t follow best practices, it might not yield the results you seek.

Is your workplace wellness program effective? If you’re not sure, download the new SHRM Foundation report “Evaluating Worksite Wellness: Practical Applications for Employers.” The report provides a step-by-step guide to evaluating wellness programs, including cost-benefit and return-on-investment analysis. Figure out what’s working for you and what’s not. Don’t be afraid to stop programs that aren’t successful and try new ones. Read on for more ideas on how to improve your wellness program.

workplace wellness best practices

Chicago Tribune article “Workplace wellness programs popular, but do they improve health?” bJudy Peres identifies the key elements of successful programs:

  • Long-term planning
  • Clear goals
  • Significant incentives to participate
  • Frequent communication
  • Rigorous evaluation

“Wellness programs typically include weight loss and smoking cessation programs, fitness rooms or subsidies for gym memberships, walking paths, drug and alcohol abuse programs, stress management and online support systems that include tips for healthier living. Increasingly they include monetary incentives to get people to participate,” she writes.

She cites Steven Noeldner, a partner at benefits consulting firm Mercer:

“Programs that employ best practices see a 2-to-1 return on investment over the course of three years. Some of those practices include having a multiyear strategic plan, specific goals and targets, effective behavior modification programs, meaningful incentives, a rigorous evaluation process and effective communication across multiple modalities. Having a workplace culture that supports and encourages good health is also important.”

Learn from wellness success stories

The article features several examples of businesses with successful workplace wellness programs, including Life Fitness, which sells commercial fitness equipment. The company launched its wellness program about a year ago. It includes treadmill desks, workout rooms, group training classes, a walking track, a running club and a soccer club, among other activities. Program manager Melissa diLeonardo believes the program will be:

“… the catalyst for a cultural shift in our office, creating stronger and healthier employees and, in turn, making Life Fitness a stronger and healthier company.”

 Johnson & Johnson, with 125,000 employees worldwide, has had a workplace wellness program for 35 years. The program has saved the company millions of dollars.
A 2011 study published in the journal Health Affairs, notes Peres, found that Johnson & Johnson realized average annual per-employee savings of $565. And while comparable companies averaged estimated annual growth in total medical spending of 4.8%, Johnson & Johnson’s increase was only 1% a year.

“Company employees benefited from meaningful reductions in rates of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, physical inactivity and poor nutrition,” the study says.

Peres writes:

“J&J’s wellness program gives employees a $500 credit toward health care premiums if they fill out a health risk assessment with lifestyle questions such as whether they smoke and how much they exercise. Employees also take biometric tests, including blood pressure and cholesterol, and their BMI is calculated. Employees at high risk for a chronic disease and those who smoke are invited to participate in free education and counseling programs.”

Effective Programs attract and retain employees

Workplace Wellness Ideas: Hula Hoop Class!

Transwestern’s Houston office brought in a professional hula hooper to increase cardio workouts! Photo via Transwestern, Flickr

Along with cost savings, effective workplace wellness programs can help businesses garner awards—which can help attract and retain top talent. Commercial real estate firm Transwestern has been named a “Best Company to Work for in Texas” by Texas Monthly Magazine and a “Best Place to Work” by various local business journals. The company’s website says it’s:

“… dedicated to providing a great work environment for our team members. Our guiding principles of teamwork and life balance extend to Transwestern’s commitment of providing industry-leading benefits to our more than 2,000 team members.”

An essential part of providing that work/life balance is the TransForm workplace wellness program, which offers events and wellness materials to help employees and their families maintain healthy lifestyles. The program aims to get people moving through fitness programs and healthy eating.
Transwestern uses its intranet to convey health information, including its “team wellness” quarterly newsletter. The company also has dedicated wellness ambassadors at each location to coordinate wellness events and materials and it offers incentives to employees for participation.
How about your workplace wellness program? Assess and improve it for cost savings and a healthier, happier workplace. Even if you’re already following best practices, there’s always room for fresh ideas!
For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of health and happiness, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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