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9 of the Best Ways for Employers to Encourage Workplace Wellness


By Hallmark Business Connections | January 13, 2015 | Engage Employees

In 2014, changes in legislation under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had an impact on the types of health benefits that companies can offer to employees. As noted in Forbes, there are now close to a dozen federal and numerous state laws that employers need to be aware of relative to any company-sponsored wellness program.

Despite this, Fidelity Investment’s fifth annual wellness survey shows nearly all (95%) of companies offer some kind of health improvement program for employees. Another 93% plan to expand or maintain funding for wellness programs over the next three to five years.

So what are some of the ways leading organizations are encouraging wellness adoption and participation in the face of these recent changes to the healthcare system? We took a look at expert opinions from industry publications, academic researchers, HR leaders, and journalists across the web and came up with the following list:

1. Active Community

“Deep breathing, changing food choices, and support from upper management all create quick results in [workplace wellness programs]. The next step is to create an active community.

For example, employees could make plans to meet up in small groups for rock climbing, yoga, kayaking, or any other adventure. They could also join walks for charity as groups from your office. It’s amazing, if people ask around and support a charity that means something to a co-worker, how much morale will increase.

Fitness and active living is the best way to build friendly bonds. Making it a more positive environment means less stress for everyone.”

(Source: Huffington Post)

2. Strategic Incentives

Workplace wellness programs are no longer simply a line item managed by HR to attract prospective employees, but rather a comprehensive initiative designed to increase efficiency, reduce cost, and create a more productive work environment. Employers who use incentives to encourage wellness program participation show significantly higher participation rates.

[For this reason, it’s critical to] determine an effective incentive strategy [at a program’s outset].  Some incentive examples include gift cards, vacation time, or bonuses employees can earn for hitting specific milestones.”

(Source: Hallmark Business Connections) 

3.   Managerial Support & Buy-In

“Gallup’s research shows a clear link between employee engagement and well-being, with managers serving as a conduit between the two. Managers are uniquely positioned to ensure that each of their employees knows about the company’s wellness program, to encourage team members to take part, and to create accountability for results.

Managers account for at least 70% of team variation on employee engagement. And engaging employees is vital to getting them involved in company-sponsored initiatives, because engaged workers are 28% more likely to participate in a wellness program offered by their company than are average employees. Research findings suggest a contagion effect; direct reports of managers with high overall well-being are 15% more likely to have high overall well-being six months later.”

(Source: Gallup)

4. Ergonomic Considerations

“These days, it’s not enough to promote healthy workplaces through diet and exercise; employers must also be mindful of modern ergonomic theory. It’s no secret that sitting too long can be harmful to your health.

A recent article by Hallmark Business Connections recommends reconfiguring the office to include desks with exercise balls, ergonomic keyboards and mice, and even individual step counters to encourage workers to get up and walk more. While they may be an expensive investment, standing desks can help improve employee circulation and overall productivity. Some businesses also orchestrate office-wide stretching sessions over the PA system to get workers out of their seats and on the way to healthier living.

(Source: Intuit)

5. Increased Physical Activity

“Study after study shows that just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can help prevent a wide variety of costly health issues. [Companies] don’t need to offer free gym memberships or give every employee a new pair of running shoes; there are plenty of ways to get the workforce moving for little to no money.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add signage by the elevator to encourage stair use. For example, ‘Burn calories, not electricity!’
  • Move often-used machines and appliances farther away from workspaces. Relocating the copier or coffee machine down the hallway will force employees to get up and move around throughout the day.
  • Emphasize face-to-face communication vs. phone or email conversations. Not only will this encourage staff to move around the office, but it also saves a lot of wasted time. One quick face-to-face meeting can eliminate the unproductive back-and-forth of several emails.

(Source: BenefitsPro) 

6. Targeted Checkups

“[To facilitate wellness adoption], encourage checkups only for people likely to benefit from them. Instead of requiring or incentivizing them annually, [companies could] try a more targeted algorithm.

One idea is to work with the company’s health plan to get involved only once every few years, except for people with known chronic diseases, multiple risk factors, or a history of using the emergency room of a hospital for non-trauma routine-care events. These employees should get more frequent reminders. (People can still go to the doctor on their own for preventive checkups; the visits themselves are still free under the Affordable Care Act.)

Timely and clinically appropriate prompts are one of the most important functions that a wellness program should provide.”

(Source: Harvard Business Review)

7. Culture of Wellness

“To build up a healthy environment in the workplace, [HR leaders] should ask about fitness and health and wellness patterns during interviews. If companies are looking to create a culture of excellence at work, it’s important to know who leaders are hiring.

This is not to say that HR professionals should avoid hiring inactive people but rather that, once they hire someone who is active-minded, to engage them right away.”

(Source: Huffington Post)

8. Continuous Feedback & Improvement

“When employers institute a wellness program but fail to cultivate and promote it, the program does not generate the same results. As a company’s workflow increases, employees’ caring for themselves often becomes a low priority. So employers need to motivate and encourage employees’ participation in fitness and health programs to ensure that they work.

When developing a dynamic employee wellness program, [it’s critical to] involve employees in the discussion. Solicit ongoing feedback from the people using the program. This sends the message that employees’ opinions count, and great ideas will undoubtedly surface.”

(Source: Entrepreneur) 

9. Healthy Options at the Office

“Wellness programs can empower employees to change unhealthy habits and make healthier lifestyle choices. They can lead to lower turnover rates and higher morale because employees appreciate knowing that employers care about their health and happiness.

To promote good nutrition around the office, swap the typical vending machine items for more nutritious options, organize healthful potlucks at work, and offer wholesome snacks during meetings and breaks.”

(Source: Entrepreneur)

Final Thoughts
As we have outlined previously, workplace wellness programs have proven to be an invaluable resource for many organizations. Despite the increasingly complex healthcare environment, companies are increasingly adopting wellness initiatives designed to make employee health a priority and boost office morale, productivity, and engagement.

The above list represents 9 of the ways employers are encouraging workplace wellness participation. Is your company following suit?

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