Industry Market Trends

Important Keys in Implementing a Workplace Wellness Program

May 14, 2014

As the debate around healthcare reform continues, one thing is certain: employer healthcare costs are still going up. More and more organizations are taking steps to help employees lower their health risks and thus health insurance claims. Wellness programs are part of cost-reduction strategies, and workforce solutions expert Michelle Benjamin reminds of key program-management tips.

One of the major components of the Affordable Care Act deals with reducing the cost of overall healthcare by increasing employer-based prevention programs and preventive care. There remains in the federal healthcare reform law a provision through fiscal-year 2015 that provides grants to help qualifying small businesses establish workplace wellness programs.

Healthy employees, with a strong wellness foundation, require fewer sick days, are more likely to be immunized to diseases, and are less likely to expose themselves to substances such as tobacco smoke and excessive alcohol, thereby reducing the overall cost of health insurance premiums and healthcare costs for employers. Many companies continue to implement workplace wellness programs or tune up existing programs, as a result.

If your business is preparing to implement a workplace wellness program, here are some tips to get a higher level of employee participation.

Get Employees' Input

Many workplace wellness programs fail or have limited participation because they don't appeal to the majority of employees. So before you start drafting your program and looking for service providers to assist you, ask your employees what they would like. Put together a quick survey that lists out potential programs and benefits and have your workforce rank them based on their interest. Compile the results and work on solutions that are most appealing to employees.

Set a Program Budget

As with any new program or initiative, it is important to set a budget. This budget should be realistic, based on the company's financial condition, yet it should have sufficient funding to make the program meaningful. This budget doesn't have to cover all of the costs related to the program. Many programs are set up so that both employees and their employers share portions of the costs.

Make the Program Easy

The shorter the distance that employees have to travel to participate in a wellness program, the more likely they will participate. Consider having parts of your program available onsite at your facility. Find out whether you have space for a physical trainer or fitness expert to conduct classes onsite. Is there a meeting room available for a weight-management representative to conduct a weekly meeting? Is there space in the parking lot for an onsite farmer's market offering healthier foods once a week?

By having preventive care and service providers come to the business, employees will more likely take part in wellness events, since they don't have to leave the building or make special trips.

Don't Leave Anyone Out

Make sure that your program is set up to give all employees an equal chance of participating. If you are operating a multiple-shift workplace, plan to accommodate all employees when scheduling your wellness activities. Make sure that you aren't catering to one particular group. For example, if you have courses or programs for women's health concerns, have courses that address issues men face, too.

Rewards and Incentives

Everyone likes to be rewarded and recognized for doing something well, and wellness is no different. When creating your program, include rewards and incentives designed to motivate and increase employee participation, as well as to keep them interested and invested in continuing with the program. These incentives could range from credits to their health insurance premiums to monetary rewards for reaching a particular health status.

Companies can begin "Lean Lunch" sessions where employees receive valuable information encouraging healthy habits from featured speakers. Companies can form teams for friendly competitions, on which employees can join to win corporate t-shirts, water bottles, and other low-cost giveaways to fuel motivation and engagement as they progress.

The saying that prevention is the best medicine applies to individuals' health and the health of your entire workforce more than ever. The physical and mental state of your workforce can have a direct impact on the health of your businesses. Healthier employees, through workplace policies and tools that encourage better nutritional and lifestyle habits, have greater productivity.

By implementing a workplace wellness program, a company is not only investing in the condition of its employees, it is investing in the wellness of the organization as a whole. This forward investment applies not only to current employees but to all future employees, as well. Potential employees of your company will look at your workplace wellness program as an added benefit when considering employment.

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Since 1985, Michelle Benjamin, founder and CEO of Benjamin Enterprises and Pivot Partners, has provided a broad range of workforce solutions to industries and government at all levels. Her clients have ranged from corporate giants like Anheuser-Busch, Kohl's Distribution, Consolidated Edison, General Electric, Entergy, and United Parcel Service. Services can include strategic process enhancements, workforce optimization to increase productivity and the capabilities of employees, and operations improvements. To reach Michelle, contact her at or (800) 677-2532.