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Workplace and Corporate Wellness Programs

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  • Synopsis: Information relating to wellness programs in the workplace including weight management, health education, on-site fitness and other programs - Published: 2014-02-17 (Rev. 2016-04-07). For further information pertaining to this article contact: Thomas C Weiss at Disabled World.

Definition: Workplace Wellness

Defined as any workplace health promotion activity or organizational policy designed to support healthy behavior in the workplace and to improve health outcomes. Generally speaking, health promotion is defined as "the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health," and health promotion can be carried out in the workplace as well as many other settings. Known as 'corporate wellbeing' outside the US, it consists of a variety of activities such as health fairs, health education, medical screenings, health coaching, weight management programs, wellness newsletters, on-site fitness programs and/or facilities and educational programs.

Main Document

"The confluence of increasing health care costs and the worsening status of employee health are threatening corporate viability and making the American health care system unsustainable."

A workplace wellness program is a health promotion activity or organization-wide policy designed to support healthy behavior and improve health outcomes while people are at work.

The programs consist of activities such as weight management programs, health education and coaching, medical screenings, health fairs, on-site fitness programs and other programs. Wellness programs also include policies intended to facilitate employee health, to include permitting time for exercise, the provision of on-site kitchens and eating areas, offering health-focused food options in vending machines, holding, 'walk and talk,' meetings and offering financial and other incentives for participants. Effective workplace policies, programs and environments that are health-focused and worker-centered have the potential to benefit employees, employers, family members and communities.

Chronic Diseases and Places of Employment

Chronic diseases such as hypertension and depression may lead to a decline in the overall health of employees in a place of employment. They might contribute to an increase in health-related costs for both employees and employers, as well as lead to missed days from work. A number of businesses have realized the benefits of health promotion and to cut the costs of increasing health care they have started to offer wellness programs to their employees. Ideally, the workplace should be one that not only protects the well-being and safety of employees, but also provides them with opportunities for improved long-term health.

While chronic diseases are among the most costly and common of all health issues, adopting healthy lifestyles may help to prevent them. A wellness program focused on keeping employees healthy is a main long-term human asset management strategy.

The confluence of increasing health care costs and the worsening status of employee health are threatening corporate viability and making the American health care system unsustainable. As the biggest provider of health care coverage, employers offer the potential to exert transformational leadership. Business leaders; however, are struggling to find solutions to contain increasing health care costs that encompass more than simply the direct cost of employee health care coverage. Improving health while controlling costs require legislative action as well as governmental and business leadership investment in workforce health through employee health management programs, to include workplace health promotion or wellness programs.

Researchers have stated that workplace wellness programs focused on adopting a healthier lifestyle; however, have less dramatic results. Dr. Soeren Mattke, Senior Natural Scientist at RAND Corporation stated, "While workplace wellness programs have the potential to reduce health risks and cut health care spending, employers and policymakers should not take for granted that the lifestyle management components of the programs can reduce costs or lead to savings overall."

Chart showing operating plan elements of employee health and wellness programs
Chart showing operating plan elements of employee health and wellness programs
A study examined PepsiCo's, 'Healthy Living,' wellness program over a seven year period of time. Among the program components were health risk assessments and on-site wellness events. The company's well program also provided assistance with disease and lifestyle-management, as well as a hotline that provided advice from a nurse. Researchers assessed the experience of more than 67,000 employees who were eligible for the disease and lifestyle-management programs.

The study was published in the journal, 'Health Affairs,' and found that the disease-management program alone resulted in a cost reduction of $136 each month, as well as a 29% drop in hospital admissions among participants. Researchers said that each dollar invested in the wellness program saved $3.78 in health care costs. Employees who participated in both the disease and lifestyle-management program saved $160 per month, while hospital admissions among this group fell by 66%.

Although participants in the lifestyle-management program missed work less often, the program did not have a significant effect on health care costs. Mattke stated, "The PepsiCo program provides a substantial return for the investment made in helping employees manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But the lifestyle-management component of the program, while delivering benefits, did not provide more savings than it cost to offer."

Researchers said it is usually easier to cut costs among those who spend more. Employees in the disease-management program who also participated in the lifestyle-management program experienced increased savings. Researchers stated that targeting lifestyle programs to those employees might improve their cost-saving benefit.

Operating Plan Elements of Employee Health and Wellness Programs

The operating plan elements of employee health and wellness programs consist of a number of things. Each of these things are, of course, up to each individual company to consider. What follows are the elements they might consider.

Program Vision Statement: Employee health and wellness programs should begin here. Every successful and lasting employee health and wellness program, as well as organization, has clear vision or mission statements. A vision statement is the envisioned future the organization is attempting to achieve. It should include the values that drive the program as well as the goals or accomplishments the employee wellness program is trying to achieve. The vision statement should support the organization's overall mission statement.

Program Goals: Goals are the long-term accomplishments the program hopes to achieve. The goals are more likely to be accomplished when they are realistic, reflect the needs of both employees and management, and flow naturally from the data collected. Goals should include clear time limits so it is easy to determine whether or not the goal has been achieved.

Program Objectives: Objectives are the tactics implemented in order to achieve the stated goals. They should be written like goals so it is clear whether or not they have been achieved and include specific action steps with a timeline for completion.

Program Timeline: It is important to develop a realistic timeline to both implement and evaluate the program. The timeline incorporates key dates contained in the goals and objectives. Health promotion programs are usually started at the beginning of a new year when people are making resolutions and then re-marketed at least twice more throughout the year. Wellness activities should be scheduled at times that are convenient for every potential participant, so it might be necessary to offer multiple sessions to include evening ones.

Chart showing program budget items
Chart showing program budget items
Program Budget: It takes resources to carry out the objectives necessary to achieve the program goals. The program budget might include items such as:
  • Salaries
  • Evaluation
  • Outside vendors
  • Program materials
  • Administrative needs
  • Costs associated with incentives

A comprehensive budget is crucial during the evaluation process as program costs are compared to program outcomes.

Program Communication Plan: The program must be communicated and market to increase employee awareness of the program while driving participation. The operating plan should address the types of marketing efforts that will be used to inform employees about the wellness plan. Specific communication methods will vary depending upon the size of the organization and its budget.

Program Implementation Plan: The implementation plan provides detailed information concerning when the various health promotion programs will be offered. It will assign the individual responsibilities associated with the offerings.

Program Evaluation Plan: The final section of the operating plan addresses how to measure the success of the program. Ideally, evaluation includes both measurement of how well the program is working and whether or not it is achieving the expected results. Participation counts along with participation evaluation and surveys help to answer who is using the program, what activities are most popular, whether the program met the needs of participants, as well as whether or not participants were satisfied with the content of the program.

Measure the results by reviewing each program goal and determining whether the goal has been achieved. For example; has the prevalence of smoking decreased by the end of the fiscal year? If it has not, why not? Does the timeline need to be adjusted or the objectives revised

Implementation of an Employee Health and Wellness Program requires careful planning. With good planning, a company can benefit from workplace health promotion. The results may be healthier employees, a reduction in absenteeism, increased productivity, increased morale and a reduction in health care costs.



Related:

  1. Ruth Klein (Feb 10, 2009). Workplace Disability and Health Trends
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/workplace-disability.php
  2. McCarthy Weisberg Cummings, P.C. (Aug 26, 2010). Disabled Workers Still Face Discrimination in the Workplace
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/discrimination/workplace-discrimination.php
  3. Wendy Taormina-Weiss (May 29, 2012). Workplace Stress - Symptoms and Solutions
    https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/psychological/workplacestress.php





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