How to Create a Wellness Plan That Workers Actually Use

Increase participation by making it as convenient as possible.

Workplace wellness programs are supposed to lead to a healthier workforce, increased productivity and lower insurance premiums.

However, business owners are realizing that simply encouraging employees to exercise more or eliminating the junk food in the break room isn’t giving immediate return on their investment.

Many employers have canceled wellness programs in 2016 due to low participation and unquantifiable results. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s community rating rules, which eliminate underwriting for determining small-group employers’ insurance premium costs, employers are being charged the same rate regardless of if they have a healthy workforce.

Why Offer Wellness Programs?

Studies have shown that 77 percent of employees believe health and wellness programs positively impact the culture at work, and 87 percent of them consider these offerings when choosing an employer.

Several health insurance providers offer businesses a complimentary wellness program, and they will give rebates on the cost of coverage to companies as more employees participate. These built-in solutions are attractive to the business owner with limited resources to independently administer a program. Plus, the rebate provides immediate ROI.

Think Outside the Box

So how can small businesses encourage more of their employees to actually use wellness programs?

As you design your program, remember to include mental health components such as work-life balance solutions, stress relief resources and realistic exercise opportunities.

Make it easy to exercise // Let’s face it, we are all accustomed to convenience, and your wellness program should be no exception. Employers commonly offer a gym discount … and then ignore several factors that will make employees less likely to go: no time built into the workday that allows them to exercise, the gym is off-site or there is still a cost to the employee.

For example, we had a client with an on-site gym where both the president and CEO were known to work out over lunch. Their program had the largest percentage of participation during that time. Once the gym moved off-site, and the leadership stopped going, employee participation also decreased by 80 percent.

Convenience // Explore the options of your health care provider to make your program more appealing and convenient. Many providers will come to your office and administer free flu shots to their members. This shows employees that you care about them.

Flexible schedules // Work-life balance is another element to consider with your wellness program. Flexible work time is the No. 1 request we see from applicants when considering a new employer.

Flexibility does not have to mean working remotely, which is hard or nearly impossible for many small employers. Consider having alternate work schedules or an accountability program. Thinking out of the box and incorporating ways to reduce the mental stress of the job will help employees feel valued, increase engagement and hopefully help with retention.

Start the conversation with your health carrier to learn how a well-designed wellness program can have a positive impact on your business.