Boost Employee Well-Being Programs 

by David Allazetta

An increasing number of companies are implementing well-being programs to help their employees live healthier lives, reduce healthcare costs, and improve employee productivity and satisfaction.

A recent employer survey by Willis Towers Watson found that 72 percent of U.S. companies “aim to improve their health and well-being strategies and programs over the next three years to differentiate themselves from organizations with which they compete for talent.”

In fact, more than half (53 percent) of employees with access to a company well-being program say the initiative has made a positive impact on their health, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. Among those, 88 percent said the programs motivated them to pay more attention to their health, 67 percent said the initiatives helped them reduce their bodyweight, and 30 percent said the resources helped detect a disease or medical condition.

To help employers support their employees’ health goals, here are five C’s that may drive engagement and create a successful well-being program.

Commitment — Executive leadership must make wellness a priority by leading the program and creating a culture of well-being. It is important they set the tone for their organization and serve as “CEO of Well-being” by passionately and visibly supporting, participating in and communicating the importance of wellness. Also, mid-level managers and direct supervisors should also set the tone for their departments by informing, educating and motivating employees. 

Communication — When it comes to well-being programs, “launch it and leave it” is not a good strategy. Businesses should establish communication touch-points throughout the year that reintroduce employees to the program and remind them about the value of participating — showing them what’s in it for them from the intrinsic perspective (their health) to the extrinsic perspective (available incentives). To support those efforts, businesses should consider forming a “Wellness Champion Network” composed of a group of volunteer employees who help in planning, communicating and implementing the program. Also, a well-being program website or intranet site can provide information and enable employees to get their questions answered.

Culture Employees spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else, so it makes sense that creating a healthier environment would help support positive behavior changes. Some examples include providing stress-related educational information, creating indoor/outdoor walking paths, installing bike racks and on-site exercise equipment or yoga classes, a lunchtime walking club or a “Take the Stairs” campaign, and providing healthier vending options.

Cash — Research shows that valued incentives drive participation, which can ultimately lead to engagement. Incentives must resonate with each business’s unique workforce. For example, merchant gift cards and premium credits resonate well with most employees. But incentives are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. The value and appeal of a particular incentive varies among employees, making the right incentive selection important. 

Contribute — A well-being program cannot be billed as “employee-focused” if employee input is not solicited and applied. By having an opportunity to share their feedback, employees can provide key information to structure the program to help meet their needs and interests, and give them a sense of ownership. It’s also valuable for the business leadership to both solicit and give open and honest feedback to further identify what is working and what needs to change to increase engagement and satisfaction.

These five C’s can help improve a company’s well-being program and earn an A+ in employee engagement.   

David Allazetta is CEO of UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual for Arizona and New Mexico, which offers additional information about well-being programs on its website.

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