Find out what will encourage people to participate — and what may provide long-term effects

Currently, 75 percent of employers offer initiatives to improve employee health and well-being, according to Society for Human Resource Management data.

Workplace wellness programs can positively affect employees’ lives — and also indirectly result in other beneficial outcomes, including increased productivity and decreased absenteeism, according to an International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans report.

The specific elements an employer includes in its health and wellness plan, however, can significantly influence the plan’s overall impact.

If your organization is thinking about adding a health and wellness initiative — or re-examining what your program currently includes — you may want to take the following elements into consideration:

Evaluation and help could reduce health program overhead

Various studies have indicated health and wellness initiatives can potentially help a number of organizations lower the cost of providing health care coverage for employees. According to an IFEPB survey, two elements — health risk assessments and health coaching — were the most common items offered by companies that say their health and wellness initiative has had a positive effect on health care costs.

Immediate returns may not tell the whole story

RAND Corporation research found disease management programs provided a greater financial ROI than lifestyle management programs — $3.80, compared to $0.50, for for every dollar an employer invested. However, the report also noted that lifestyle management programs reduce absenteeism, potentially increasing productivity, and also can reduce health risks such as smoking, obesity and a lack of physical activity — which may eventually lead to health problems such as disease for some individuals.

While the monetary ROI might not be as initially significant for lifestyle management-related workplace wellness programs, the preventative benefits they can provide very well may help lower health costs in the future.

Employees are receiving an array of incentives

mental-healthCompanies wondering how to promote wellness in the workplace so employees willingly participate in their program may want to consider incorporating a financial reward. A financial incentive can help boost employee health and wellness initiative satisfaction by six percent, according to research included in a 2018 study from the Health Enhancement Research Organization and Mercer.

A Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust annual health benefits survey found 32 percent of large firms that sponsor a program to promote health and wellness behaviors offer workers an incentive to participate; gift cards, merchandise or similar items are the most popular choice. Thirty-seven percent of companies dole out financial rewards such as cash, contributions to health-related savings accounts or the ability to avoid a payroll fee. The monetary value of the incentives can vary; most organizations (33 percent) offer an incentive of between $151 to $500. Six percent have incentives involving more than $2,000.

More employers are embracing an office design change

One particular wellness option — providing standing desks — showed considerable growth among companies from 2013 to 2017, according to an SHRM benefits report. Standing desks’ 31 percent increase in use in recent years made the amenity the fastest growing wellness program benefit, and the fastest growing general employee benefit, as well.

Sharing results can be key

Tracking participation and other metrics can help companies determine if their employee wellness program is having an effect; however, communicating program success throughout an organization can also be a good idea. Mercer and HERO’s research found health and wellness initiatives have higher participation rates when leaders not only back the programs but also actively recognize employees for achieving health and wellness program-related accomplishments.

Companies where leaders recognized employees’ actions were more likely to report their initiatives had resulted in an improvement in population health (91 percent) and medical plan cost (87 percent) than companies that didn’t recognize employees’ wellness program achievements.

For more suggestions for successful health and wellness initiative management, view our blog posts on 4 ways to improve your employee wellness program; techniques that can help companies save on health care costs; effective approaches for reducing workplace stress — and using technology to enhance wellness initiatives and other parts of the employee experience.