How to Build a Successful Workplace Wellness Program

Do’s and Don’ts for Creating an Employee Friendly Workplace Wellness Program

Men eating a healthy lunch in the office in pursuit of wellness.
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Employees spend an average of almost nine hours a day at work—more awake hours than any other place—so it seems logical that employers would want to develop a workplace that encourages and promotes healthy behaviors.

Effective and successful workplace wellness programs can help improve an organization’s culture and change lives. Companies can also benefit from lower turnover rates, fewer absences, increases in productivity and higher job satisfaction.

Decades after the launch of the Wellness Council of America, one might think that the steps for getting a wellness program off the ground are easy—give employees a gym membership or stop bringing in sweet treats. Hold Weight Watchers meetings or teach yoga classes onsite for interested employees. Support employee athletic endeavors such as running in a 5k by paying their entry fees. 

However, it’s not that simple. Lack of engagement, a shortage of leadership support, and complicated incentives all have the potential to derail all have the potential to derail your wellness program before it starts. Here are a few tips on how to build a successful workplace wellness program and some things you will want to avoid as you build your successful workplace wellness program.

  • Don't rush into a workplace wellness program. 
  • Do take your time to develop a formal strategic plan with measurable goals. Without a plan, you will always be reacting to the pressure of the day instead of focusing on specific objectives.
  • Don't launch a wellness program without any support.
  • Do partner with as many employees and departments as you can. Consider recruiting employees for a wellness committee to help you reach across the entire company.
  • Don't forget about getting buy-in from management.
  • Do include senior management as visible participants in the wellness program.
  • Don't leave people unsure of how the program works.
  • Do communicate consistently and often.
  • Don't call it a Human Resources project or initiative.
  • Do position the wellness program as something much bigger. Think about how the program will strategically impact the business and how it plays a role in your culture.
  • Don't forget about the night shift.
  • Do provide night shift workers the same access to wellness events and programming as the day shift.
  • Don't stop the wellness program because it hasn’t saved millions of dollars.
  • Do have realistic expectations. Behavior change takes time, and most wellness programs do not see a positive ROI for at least 18 months.
  • Don't view data collection as unimportant.
  • Do collect data on your employees’ health status. Biometric screenings are a great way to collect objective data.
  • Don't select programs that are not relevant to your workforce. A smoking cessation program, for example, will do little to impact costs if smoking and its related illnesses are not cost-drivers for your health insurance plan.
  • Do focus on the health issues and concerns of the majority of your employee population.
  • Don't forget to address employee privacy. Some employees may ask, "What do they need that information for? Can they fire me because of my poor health?
  • Do stress repeatedly that personal health information is confidential.
  • Don't assume you need a large budget.
  • Do be creative in identifying free activities to improve employee health. Things like walking meetings or healthy potlucks can help promote a healthy workplace without breaking the bank.
  • Don't build a complicated wellness program. If employees don't understand wellness offerings or don’t know how to participate, they will get frustrated and give up.
  • Do keep it simple and straightforward.
  • Don't be negative or insult employees.
  • Do show your employees they are valued. You want your wellness program to demonstrate that the company cares about employees’ health, not give the impression the company is coercing them to take a Health Risk Assessment.
  • Don't put your wellness program on autopilot.
  • Do run regular reports and assess how your wellness program is improving employee health. Your program should evolve with your employees.
  • Don't build a wellness program with only the intent to decrease health care costs.
  • Do look at the bigger picture.

Wellness can have a profound effect on your company culture, turnover rates, recruitment efforts and overall productivity.

Follow these do’s and don’ts and your workplace wellness implementation will go so smoothly, that you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get started. For more tips on how to implement an employee wellness program, check out this infographic.

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