Reinventing Wellness “Programs”
What if your next wellness program wasn’t a “program” at all? Wellness programs are implemented for many reasons, with the most prevalent reason being the hope of controlling medical costs. If you research whether or not wellness programs can actually help mitigate or lower rising health care costs, you will find information both supporting and heatedly denying that these programs are good for your employees (with some going as far as saying wellness programs are hurting your employees.) As with most stories, there are ways to support each side depending on your point of view. Every once in a while, headlining articles tend to state that worksite wellness programs do not actually help save money, and that they are not worth the effort or financial outlay needed to implement. Reading deeper into the articles there typically is a mention that behavior change does happen for some employees and while the ROI is difficult to prove, some participants did achieve improved health status.
The trouble with relying on these types of stories to determine what your wellness program should look like, or if you should even have one, is that employers tend to miss the point. It is easy to get caught up in what “programs” employers should offer, how much incentive they should provide, and how to measure their effectiveness. While an employer’s goal may be to lower health care costs, the healthcare system is much more complicated than relying on individual human behavior changes to achieve this goal. There are networks, insurance companies, individual practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, government regulations, etc. that all play into the cost of health care. These issues can not be solved by a worksite wellness program.
It’s time that employers refocus their attention on what they truly want to achieve with worksite wellness programs — happy, productive, energetic and healthy employees who want to come to work each day because they have a sense of purpose in their work and on their team. It’s a puzzle about as complicated as the health care conundrum, but one that employers may already have the answers to.
If you are having trouble with your “traditional” wellness programming (whether you can’t get support to get it started or you are having trouble sustaining it) it may be time to re-think what “wellness” means for your organization. Maybe it means offering fitness class perks, rewriting policies to include time for short walks throughout the day, offering healthy snacks, changing your team building activities to include more outdoor time, offering onsite dental care, eye exams or mammograms, offering a “Wellness Day Off”, or money for 5K walks that support the community. There is no right answer or perfect solution, but if you are bold enough to make some changes to your employees’ work experiences, you will show them that you are committed to supporting your company’s well-being. Then your organization will be one that thrives no matter what your “wellness program” looks like.