What’s the secret to an effective workplace wellness program?

January 30, 2020
41 Walk work-desk

Company wellness programs can help employees develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle – but it's important to be flexible and meet people where they are.

By Regence

Many companies first offered wellness programs to help employees quit smoking, manage stress and combat other specific health issues. Today employers offer a wider range of resources and incentives to help their employees improve and maintain their personal health.

Results of today’s programs are mixed—some studies show lower health care costs and improved productivity, and others conclude that workplace wellness programs make no significant difference. While there’s no consensus, we believe there are a few core areas that make a program productive for a diverse workforce.

Customization: Something for everyone

Each of us has personal health needs and preferences, so it’s critical for any workplace wellness program to acknowledge that everyone is unique.  Programs that support healthy lifestyle habits, like good sleep, as well as emotional health like reducing stress and building social connections are a few ways to help employees wherever they are in their health journey.

One way employers can help make wellness programs more effective is by simply asking employees what they want. This can mean team meeting conversations or surveys, which help engage employees and make them feel more invested. There is also research showing that financial incentives can increase employee engagement in their well-being programs. A study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College found that employees who are financially stressed miss almost twice as many workdays each year as those who aren’t.

Recognizing technology and modern workday trends 

Another incentive is providing employees with schedule flexibility. This could mean different work schedules or time off for exercise and self-care. Also, many people are using wearable devices and apps to track their activities. An estimated 60.5 million Americans use a wearable device—that’s up 9.2% from 2018—and the number is forecast to grow further.  Meeting employees where they are in terms of needs and habits is critical.

The bottom line: Employers and employees should work together to develop the workplace wellness program that works best. Many health plans, including Regence, can also offer potential solutions, resources and more. Employers can reach out their health plan representatives to learn more.

Related: Read a Q&A with Emily Boscacci, who helps manage the Regence employee wellness program as part of the Human Performance and Wellbeing team.

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