For decades, companies have promoted safety in the workplace to help prevent on-the-job injuries and create a safer work environment for all employees. Safety programs also help businesses decrease workers’ compensation claims and avoid rising insurance premiums. The same theory applies to corporate wellness programs, and then some.
Wellness programs can help employees become healthier. Healthier employees spend less for medical care - doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs – and that reduces health insurance costs for employers. But the benefits of corporate wellness programs go far beyond cost-savings. They help recruit and retain people, especially millennials, and positively impact employee engagement.
That’s why wellness programs have become one of the most common employer-sponsored benefits. If a company has not yet considered introducing one, it is late to the party:
Wellness programs are currently available to more than half of U.S. employers with 50 or more employees [U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services].
More than 90 percent of all firms with 25 or more employees offer at least one wellness activity – such as flu shots and smoking-cessation programs [The Kaiser Family Foundation].
More than 60 percent of companies with wellness budgets expect their budgets to increase in the next two years [International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans].
The impact of the Affordable Care Act
A growing number of companies also are implementing wellness programs as a direct response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under ACA, employers may establish certain wellness incentives of up to 30 percent of the total cost of medical coverage (including both employer and employee contributions) or up to 50 percent for wellness incentives specifically to prevent or reduce tobacco use. ACA also promotes other wellness-based initiatives such as preventive care services including free annual physicals, free well-woman care and free well-child care and immunizations.
Tips for building a wellness culture
There are many different approaches to introducing wellness into the workplace. It is a strategic investment and should be part of a company’s overall business plan. Most employers offer wellness benefits through their group health plans to plan members. Others offer wellness programs to all employees through a third-party provider.
The good news is that even if a company is not in a financial position to implement a comprehensive wellness program just yet, there are many small steps an organization can take towards building a wellness culture.
Simply replacing the items available in the office “snack machines” with healthier choices or organizing employees to walk/run to raise money for a health-related charity can send a signal that wellness is important to the company. A business can also “test-drive” one component of a wellness program, such as offering a free health screening to employees on-site to measure overall interest and participation rates.
Here are some other simple ideas to bring a company closer to a wellness culture:
Promote preventive care. Make sure employees know what preventive care benefits are available to them through their current health plan. Remind employees to get their annual physical.
Encourage exercise. Organize and promote a lunch hour “walking club” and offer incentives for employees who participate, such as a wearable activity tracker like a Fitbit. Make employees aware of gym membership discounts that may already be available through their health plan and encourage them to sign-up.
Emphasize education. Host healthy brown bag luncheons to entice employees to learn more about healthy habits. Recruit speakers from your community to lead sessions on building awareness of mental health issues, or to learn about the latest technology to help stay fit, or methods to reduce stress.
The wellness landscape is changing daily. Employers should research the options by seeking guidance from Engage. We have multiple wellness programs and initiatives that can be implemented and other fully ACA-compliant benefit solutions for business.