With the new year, wellness is at the top of many minds. Wellness programs have found a place in many companies’ health care benefits packages, but it hasn’t been easy. Because these programs take many different shapes and sizes, they can be challenging to design, implement and maintain.
There’s also the not-so-small matter of compliance: The federal government regulates wellness programs in various ways, including through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Whether your business is just embarking on the process of creating one or simply looking for improvement tips, here are some key aspects of the most successful wellness programs.
Simplicity and clarity
“Welcome to our new wellness program,” began the company’s memo. “Attached is a 200-page guide, featuring a complex point system that will determine whether you qualify for incentives, and a lengthy glossary of medical terminology.”
See the problem here? The surest way to get a program off to a bad start is by frontloading it with all sorts of complexities and time-consuming instructions. Granted, there will be an inevitable learning curve to any type of wellness program. But the simpler the design, the easier it will be to explain and implement. Remember that you can update and increase a program’s complexity as it becomes more ingrained in your company’s culture.
Clarity of communication is also paramount. Materials should be well-organized and written clearly and concisely. Ideally, they should also have an element of creativity to them — to draw in participants. However, the content needs to be sensitive to the fact that these are inherently personal health issues.
If you don’t have anyone in-house who can handle these criteria, consider engaging a consultant. In addition, have your attorney review all materials related to the program for compliance purposes.
Carefully chosen providers
At most companies, outside vendors provide the bulk of wellness program services and activities. These may include:
Seminars on healthy life and work habits,
Smoking cessation workshops,
Healthful food options in the break room and cafeteria, and
Runs, walks or other friendly competitive or charitable events.
It’s critical to thoroughly vet providers and engage only those that are skilled and qualified. Neglecting to do so could mean that, even if you create and communicate a solid program, the initiative will likely fail once employees show up to participate and are disappointed in the experience.
Return on investment
Of course, there will be upfront and ongoing costs related to a wellness program. Contact us for help assessing these costs while designing or revising a program and tracking them over time. The ultimate sought-after return on investment of every wellness program is a healthier, more productive workforce and more affordable health care benefits.