5 Essential Components of Employee Wellness Programs
Set your program up for success by including these five components in your strategy.
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A well-run employee wellness program can improve the physical and mental health of your employees, decreasing rates of absenteeism and improving presenteeism. Wellness programs show employees that you care about their well-being both in and out of the workplace. Employees who feel valued by their employer are loyal and more likely to stick around your organization for a long time.
But the key qualifier here is well-run. Wellness programs often fail to meet their goals as they lack the components essential for success. Here are five components of employee wellness programs to consider in your strategy.
Organizations often engage in costly and unnecessary wellness efforts due to both a lack of support from senior leadership and little understanding of their populations’ unique needs. For example, let’s say your organization wants to add some wellness perks. You enter into a partnership with a salad chain vendor near the office to offer a discounted healthy lunch option. That’s a great way to provide a healthy lunch for in-office employees but fails to address the wellness needs of those working remotely in other parts of the country. Your company has now wasted money, failed to meaningfully improve health in any way, and received the glaring disapproval of leadership, making it harder to implement more perks going forward.
HR teams need to heavily research and present data that supports how well-run health initiatives can reduce healthcare premiums for employers, decrease absenteeism, and improve employee satisfaction. Leaders at your company need to buy into the importance of the program for HR teams to receive funding and support. Leadership also sets the tone for the culture of an organization and can lead by example by being active participants in the program. You will also need to highlight the wants and needs of your unique employee population to the leadership team. Employee benefits surveys and focus groups can be a great way to gain insight into your diverse workforce and how employees want to be supported.
It's important to have clearly defined goals of what you want to accomplish with your wellness program. For example, is participation alone the goal? Do you want the number of sick days to decrease? Do you want employees to report less stress and better health? Together with senior leadership, you’ll need to outline a list of specific goals before launch.
You need to carefully consider the employee experience before implementing a new program. Employees are busy, so it can be a burden for them to learn and understand an entirely new platform. It should be easy for employees to access and use their wellness benefits even without extensive training and onboarding. Consider a platform where employees can easily download the application and then use wellness dollars as they wish. If the policy is directly coded into the platform, it can be enforced at the point of sale, eliminating the need for reimbursements.
Reimbursements are often an enormous roadblock to benefits utilization because employees must front the costs and wait up to a month before being reimbursed. Expense reporting is also a time-consuming process for both employees and HR or finance teams. A successful wellness initiative should be easy to implement and require a very low lift from teams and employees so that everyone can quickly get up and running.
Giving employees more choice in how they use wellness dollars will lead to higher engagement and satisfaction. Many organizations create restrictive or limited programs that fail to address a holistic picture of health. Instead, leading organizations have added wellness as a pillar to their lifestyle spending account (LSA) programs. LSAs are non-salaried allowances that employees can use according to their personal preferences. You can define eligible expenses that fit the unique needs of your workforce, including grocery delivery, lunch allowances for in-office workers, gym memberships, meditation apps, personal training sessions, and so much more.
It’s also critical to examine the flexibility of your benefits partner. Some vendors have a limited marketplace that restricts employees to a small selection of places they can spend their funds. When selecting a partner, be sure to ask questions about where employees can use their dollars, how the policy is coded into the platform, how frequently eligible expenses can be changed and updated, and what kind of support is offered to employees.
The only way to determine the efficacy of your wellness program is by measuring ROI, the return on investment of the program. Measuring ROI helps you ensure that your program is meeting goals and allows your team to make adjustments and receive buy-in for more budget or other future HR initiatives. You can measure participation, financial outcomes, health outcomes, employee satisfaction, rates of absenteeism and presenteeism, and more.
Wellness programs often fail because employees either don’t know about them or don’t think that anyone else is participating. Communication should expand beyond email to include tools like Zoom sessions, Slack updates, videos, intranet posts, and more. You should communicate with employees through multiple mediums to accommodate a wide variety of preferences and learning styles.
Leading organizations have developed clever ways to regularly communicate with employees. The Community Group (TCG) is a private, nonprofit organization that has been creating opportunities through education since 1970. Their benefits include an LSA program that provides employees with a monthly stipend they can use to take care of their wellness. The HR team shares stories of how team members are using the funds in a weekly newsletter. The newsletter acts as a great reminder for individuals to spend the funds and inspires employees with ideas of how they can do so, increasing engagement with the program.
A well-structured wellness program that takes into account employee personal preferences and feedback is a great way to meet your goals for talent attraction and retention. If you have any questions about building a flexible employee rewards and wellness program, please get in touch here or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.