Why do over 80% of businesses in the U.S. offer an employee wellness program? And what do they involve? In this review of the basics of employee wellness, we’ll:
Employee health and wellness programs are known to improve participant health and lower employee healthcare costs. To put it simply, wellness is about human capital management. It’s proven to help employees by improving their quality of life, increasing productivity, and lowering absenteeism.
Additionally, it can lower employee turnover, decrease healthcare spending, and boost both morale and the bottom line, with proven ROI. It’s the right thing to do, morally and financially. The real question is, why not offer wellness?
Today, a wellness program is necessary to maintain a competitive benefits package. There are tailored wellness programs for every type of organization, from a small business to a large corporation. And the best part is, when you partner with wellness vendors and wellness technology companies, the hard work is done for you.
For more on the advantages of working with a wellness platform see our Comprehensive Guide on Wellness Technology Products.
Workplace wellness works, and there are decades of research studies to support it. From preventing and managing disease to increasing healthy habits, wellness challenges participants to be their best selves – and improves outcomes for individuals as well as organizations.
Here are just a few examples of research that supports the efficacy of wellness:
This list barely scratches the surface of research studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of employee wellness programs. But to see results, the program must be done right. An effective, comprehensive program, with targeted, updated programing, individualized content, and regular wellbeing assessments, is key.
With the right program, leaders can expect:
... and more.
Break down corporate wellness into its basic parts, and it begins to look less intimidating. Every example of successful worksite wellness involves a few of the same essential components:
Building an employee wellness program based on data from health risk assessments (HRA) and/or biometric screenings is one of the best approaches to results-oriented wellness. With the right help, your assessments can be smooth and straightforward. Some of the major benefits of offering a health risk assessment for employees include:
During the HRA process, employees evaluate their lifestyle habits in detail. Wellness providers can then use the aggregate data collected and compare it with biometric data, including vital signs and blood test results, to gain an accurate perspective of overall population wellness.
For more, see our Complete Guide to Health Risk Assessments.
Why offer employee health coaching? Because there seems to be a disconnect between health care and patients. You’ve experienced this firsthand if you’ve ever had a biometric screening and, after seeing your results, felt confused or apathy about what they mean and what to do next. While many employers hold company-wide biometric screenings (or require that employees get screened at the doctor), the likelihood that employees will take action to improve their results is very low if they don’t receive support and guidance (as noted above, updated HRAs offer immediate and automated guidance to personalized resources).
Participants don’t always have the education, resources, or access to care needed to make lasting changes. However, there’s evidence that the gap in health care can be filled by health coaches. A corporate wellness coach can make a big difference to the lives and health of your employees.
Let’s look at an example involving one of the most common – and expensive – chronic diseases: diabetes. In a study by the Joslin Diabetes Center, health coaching helped participants have an average 2.0-point drop on HbA1c in three months. When combined with a worksite wellness platform, the numbers dropped even lower - to 3.2 in three months on average. In comparison, those who did not participate in diabetes health coaching and instead did a year of insulin therapy and occasional doctor visits, saw a 0.5 – 1.0 average drop.
For more, see our Complete Guide to Employee Health Coaching.
Wellness challenges are a fun way to engage a team (including remote and in-person employees) in activities that are easy to implement and track, as one part of an overall wellness program. An employee wellness challenge is usually based on tracking steps or minutes of activity, but can also be based on nutrition, mental health, financial wellness, community giving, and more.
Here's how wellness challenges get people moving:
Need some wellness challenge ideas? Check out some of the ways CoreHealth can help you implement simple walking challenges.
The underlying component of all the wellness programs we’ve discussed is the wellness platform that powers them. Wellness technology is a broad term that describes wellness software, tools and systems that allow organizations to assess health risk levels of employees, and to develop, then deliver wellness programming. It also helps evaluate the performance of these programs and measure ROI.
So where does wellness technology come from? There are many sources of wellness technology, from independent computer programmers to a company’s in-house IT department. There are also companies that focus solely on creating wellness technology, such as CoreHealth’s total well-being platform.
Vendors that specialize in developing wellness technology (vs. providing wellness programs AND developing technology) have special insight into the industry. They’re constantly evolving their platform to incorporate customer feedback and improve clients’ ROI.
For more on wellness technology, see our Comprehensive Guide to Wellness Technology Products
It’s important to note the difference between two types of wellness technology: a wellness software application vs a wellness platform. A wellness app typically has a single function, while a wellness platform is a digital home-base that stores multiple apps, partner integrations and more, to consolidate all aspects of a well-being program behind a single login.
Additionally, programs and software vary in the duration and complexity of services they provide. Some wellness technology focuses exclusively on specific components or programs (for example, only health coaching, health assessments, or challenges), while others provide a complete, end-to-end well-being program with many components.
Platform - The underlying hardware or software for a program. The platform defines a standard around which a system can be developed. Once the platform has been defined, software developers can produce appropriate software and purchase appropriate hardware and applications.
The biggest difference between an application and a platform is the amount of flexibility you have. A platform pulls a multitude of features, products, software, hardware together and is typically designed for them to work seamlessly together with one login. Platforms are designed to meet the vast needs of many, in limitless form, while an application is designed for a specific scenario with limited flexibility.
Considering all the technology and information required to make wellness run, it’s no surprise that employee wellness programs collect and rely on lots of personal health information (PHI) and other sensitive data. Ensuring that PHI is safe from security breaches must be a top priority. A sophisticated security procedure is essential for maintaining the privacy of participants and to avoid a data security breach.
Your program must comply with data security laws, which differ by region and country. A few examples include GDPR (EU), HIPAA, and HITECH laws (US) and PIPEDA (Canada). As a top provider of secure wellness technology, CoreHealth is constantly updating security measures to maintain the security of our wellness platforms and comply with evolving employee privacy laws.
In most cases, unless motivated, most employees will have a hard time making healthy lifestyle changes. This is where incentives can help.
While there is controversy about wellness incentives and if they actually work, 75% of wellness programs do include incentives to encourage participation.
The goal of a wellness program is for employees to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle for the long run - ideally, permanently. Traditionally, improving lifestyle behaviors revolved around education, but today that isn’t enough to get many to quit smoking, stop eating junk food or go to the gym. Now companies are using money, gifts and sometimes penalties to encourage employees to be healthier.
Here are some tips on implementing incentives:
Almost every successful wellness initiative provides some type of incentive program to help employees with their journey to health.
Here are some incentives ideas that promote healthy behaviors that some of our customers provide broken down by budget.
Options for incentives are endless. There are also non-tangible incentives that can be used and are essentially free such as:
Besides choosing which rewards you want to give there are three primary types of incentives that may work better than others depending on the type of wellness initiative.
As noted above, there are many studies that prove a high ROI for wellness. However, measuring ROI of employee wellness can be tricky because it comes with several returns that are hard to quantify. These include:
However, there are many results of wellness that can be measured, including:
Many of these statistics are best collected with an annual HRA to track year-over-year progress. But still, in the age of The Great Resignation and employees valuing a full benefits package more than compensation, perhaps the question should not be “what’s the ROI?”, but rather, “why haven’t wellness programs always been this important?”
Top talent can be attracted and maintained with an inclusive workplace culture and prioritized well-being. While ROI is a great starting point for valuing wellness, the real value for organizations may lie in keeping employees healthy, happy, and productive. This is about the value on investment (VOI) instead of ROI. In other words, there’s more return from wellness than just a dollar amount.
Check out our guide to learn how you can prove the VOI of wellness programming.
Successful wellness initiatives should align with the organization's goals. It’s essential that you have a set vision and mission statement on which the program will be built.
This mission and vision statement will also serve as the basis for communicating the initiative to employees. It will similarly guide the curation of the wellness program goals, which will help get buy-in from decision-makers.
The mission and vision statement should be clearly reflected in the goals, which should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Having a goal will direct the wellness program, including types of offerings, frequency of initiatives, and the details of how success will be measured.
One of the reasons business leader support is crucial for wellness programs is the budget. Workplace well-being initiatives will use valuable resources, such as investing in updated technology to increase program participation. Aside from administrative needs, organizations also have to spend on program materials, third-party vendors, training costs, and evaluation expenses. A detailed financial plan is critical for the longevity of the offering.
A wellness program is futile if it can’t be communicated properly to target participants. Communications should be tailored to individual employees – the days of the mass e-mail are long gone. Individualized messaging will increase participation by making wellness relevant to each potential participant. An updated wellness platform can make this easy.
Successful wellness programs should not be short-sighted. Plan on offering comprehensive HRAs at least annually, with more specific assessments more often. This is the best way to assess and analyze the program’s success.
Based on the results, coordinators can identify what aspects of the program can be added, removed or changed. This should be based on the initiatives' set goals and key performance indicators - which should be established prior to starting your corporate wellness program.
In our hybrid/remote culture, a fully virtual wellness platform is essential to increase participation in wellness. It makes programs inclusive and accessible for all employees and beneficiaries, no matter where in the world they're located.
You know the why - now what? Does this sound like a lot of work to take on by yourself? Many organizations partner with wellness vendors and wellness technology companies to make the process smooth and simple. These companies offer their experience and customized programming to your population to make sure they get the best ROI and health results possible from their corporate wellness programs.
Offering workplace wellness programs provides proven benefits for both employers and employees. Organizations have embraced wellness programs as a way to help employees thrive in the workplace, and to help the business thrive in turn. It’s been shown to lower employee healthcare costs, boost productivity, promote high morale and reduce employee turnover. That’s why wellness is a healthy investment.
CoreHealth by Carebook is a total well-being company trusted by global companies to power their health and wellness programs. Our wellness portals help maximize health, engagement, and productivity for over 3.5 million employees worldwide. We believe people are the driving force of organizations and supporting them to make behavior changes to improve employee health is in everyone’s best interest. With the most flexibility, customizations, and integrations of any software in its class, CoreHealth’s all-in-one wellness platform helps achieve great wellness outcomes.
From simple to sophisticated, it's up to you. For more information, visit the CoreHealth website.
We are able to deliver our unique content, motivational challenges, education and personalized programs without the cost of custom development. We can contract a client and have their tailored portal live within hours. I also have the support of the enthusiastic CoreHealth team whenever I need them. I am very pleased.
Amy Cohen, President Inspired Perspectives
From creative job titles, to the implementation team taking our incentive structure and making it so much more than what our last portal could do! Not to mention it saved us over $75,000 per year and allows for us to resell our program to the community. For us, CoreHealth is a win-win."
Emily Elrod, Wellness Coordinator Hamilton Healthcare Systems