- An employer guide developed by The Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) and the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces (ICHW) determined that employers may need a better understanding of the factors that inhibit wellness program success in order to ultimately create effective initiatives.
Employers and employees said the key features to harbor a successful wellness program include leadership commitment for the program, a culture that supports employee wellness, and organizational support for a healthy lifestyle.
Employers can implement several tactics that create positive engagement within wellness programs.
Employers can entice individuals to use wellness programs by implementing a competitive structure and gamification to motivate wellness participation. Employers should also tailor programs to meet the individual health goals of employees with personal health coaches and other available resources.
Employers should conduct wellness programs during work hours so employees don’t have time conflicts in their personal lives, the guide said. Employers can also improve wellness programming by embedding sensitive programs involving smoking cessation and alcohol management into a larger health promotion.
The guide also identified factors that impede employees and employers from experiencing or developing a successful wellness program.
Employees identified a lack of time to complete wellness programs, concerns about confidentiality of employee health status, negative employee perceptions of wellness program usefulness, and poor enforcement mechanisms as the largest detriments to wellness programs.
The team found that employers were likely to disregard wellness programs if they lacked the understanding of how employee wellness related to productivity, had cost concerns related to wellness programming, lacked leadership to administer or guide a wellness program, and had time management concerns.
Employers can lead the charge in creating an engaging and useful wellness program by identifying the types of wellness programs that are most useful to their needs. Employers should actively collect feedback from employees through communication channels to gain insights on employee wellness needs.
For example, if employees say getting enough exercise is one of their top concerns then employers could benefit from creating a wellness program geared towards that health goal.
Employer firms that have fewer available resources to create wellness programs can implement “lite” versions that rely on education and cost-effective resources. Employer firms that have greater financial and personnel resources could develop enhanced wellness programs like a preventive care partnership between healthcare providers and employer leadership.
The guide is intended to make sure that employers are getting the largest return on their wellness programs besides just lowering health costs, said Dr. Cristina Banks director of ICHW.
"We have looked at the existing literature on wellness programs in general and created a method based on our research for how organization leaders can design an effective wellness strategy that fits their constraints," Banks said.
"Organization leaders may focus on employee healthcare costs and not know or understand the link between employee wellness and organizational outcomes such as productivity, absenteeism, turnover and disability. We help company leadership understand how the organization will benefit from employee wellness and how they can find a wellness program that fits their specific circumstances.”