Benefits of Wellness Programs:
The benefits of an employee wellness program from an employer perspective:
- Improved employee health
- Controlled healthcare costs
- Increase productivity
- Reduced absenteeism
- Improved job satisfaction
- Easier recruitment and retention of employees
Our employers sight a variety of different reasons from:
- “We want to improve the health of our employees”
- “We want to control our healthcare costs”
- “We want our employees to be more engaged and satisfied on a day‑to‑day basis”
- Even down to, “We just want to put some strategies in place that allows us to be a little more competitive in the marketplace.”
The benefits of a workplace wellness program from the employees’ perspective:
- Weight loss
- Stress relief
- Reduced health risks and/or conditions
- Improved work performance
- Increase energy and satisfaction
Wellness Program Prevention Strategies:
It’s important to note that before we can begin to talk about the type of health promotion program appropriate for any organization, we must begin to shift from a culture of sickness and disease to one that is rooted in prevention and wellness. There are a range of activities and interventions geared towards reducing health risks or threats to an employee’s health. Listed below are some primary prevention strategies, which are aimed at preventing disease or injury before it happens.
• Lifestyle management
• Health education
Primary prevention strategies focus on creating a healthy place of work, including identifying and controlling stressors or barriers so that employees are engaged in their health, have access to healthy resources on site, and have access to programs to get and stay healthy.
Strategies could be focused on the individual or the entire organization through group wellness or team based activities. Some primary prevention strategies focus on education about healthy and safe habits, such as: exercising regularly, eating well, and not smoking.
Those are good examples of primary prevention strategies. Oftentimes we find that employers assume their employees know those things, but it’s our job to continue to remind people of those good healthy practices and to create an environment where people can be rewarded and/or be encouraged to practice healthy habits at work. Many companies offer lunch and learns about a variety of health topics or offer nutrition or walking programs.
Oftentimes we find when talking to employers who survey their employees that they still need that basic education about healthy snacks to bring to work to keep them fueled throughout the day. They need that motivation to quit smoking. They don’t know the resources to go to if they do want to quit. They don’t know that there’s an EAP available to them if they’re dealing with some sort of a difficult situation. It’s a good reminder for all of us to continue to provide health education in all our materials and communications that we’re sending out for employees on an ongoing basis. Again, those are just some examples of primary prevention strategies. They’re proactive and they’re prevention focused. They can focus on all employees in the organization.
Secondary prevention strategies – Help people assess, identify and manage conditions early:
• Biometric screening and early detection programs
• Health coaching
• Health risk assessments
• Work disability prevention programs
It’s not about implementing one strategy or the other. These strategies build upon each other. We want to make sure that we have a balance of primary prevention strategies and that we’re also incorporating secondary prevention strategies when we’re ready as well. Secondary prevention strategies are really aimed to reduce the impact of disease that has already occurred. This can be done by early detection and treating disease early to halt or slow its progress. Good examples of secondary prevention might include return to work programs for people who were injured on the job, and health risk assessments to report and record their health related behaviors and indicated readiness to change based on what they reported. It also includes preventive exams and biometric screening tests to detect disease at its earliest stage. Again as we’re looking at the risk over all of the employees, we’re trying to focus on the removal of those health risk factors.
Tertiary prevention strategies— Help people manage long term, often complex health problems
The third type of prevention strategy is tertiary prevention, which is really aimed at people who are managing long term and often complex health problems. It really aims to soften the impact of an ongoing illness or injury that has lasting effects. This can be done by helping people manage long term, often complex problems and injuries, chronic diseases, and permanent impairment, in order to improve their ability as much as possible to function, their quality of life, and their life expectancy.
Some examples of tertiary prevention might include cardiac or circulatory rehabilitation programs, chronic disease management offered through a carrier in your workplace for diabetes, arthritis, depression. Examples also include support groups that allow members to share strategies for living well, and access to materials that allow them to share with their peers. Additionally, vocational rehabilitation programs to retrain workers for new jobs when they have recovered as much as possible.
Types of Wellness Programs:
• Health Education and Participation only programs (not related to the health plan)
• Participation only (related to the health plan)
• Health Contingent Activity only (related to the health plan)
• Health Contingent Outcomes Based (related to the health plan)
Helpful Resources to Get You Started on Workplace Wellness:
Many of the outstanding resources below are free and great places to start regardless of where you’re at with your workplace wellness program. This is a sampling of organizations, both locally and nationally, that have evidence based health promotion best practices you can reference. Certainly, we at The Partners Group are happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have regarding the development of a workplace wellness program. Iris Tilley at Barran Liebman Attorneys is also available through The Partners Group to answer legal questions you might have when starting up a wellness program.
Helpful resources to get you started on workplace wellness:
• Wellness at Work through Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI)
• Workplace Health Promotion (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
• Worksite Wellness Network
• American Heart Association Play Book
• National Institute of Health (NIH)
• Carrier Partners
• HERO Health (Health Enhancement Research Organization)
Full article – Create an outcomes based approach to wellness with a focus on prevention, click here.
We’ve highlighted a particular employer and how they went down the path of implementing a workplace risk reduction strategy in this case study.
Additionally we’ve invited our legal counsel, Iris Tilley from Barran Liebman Attorneys, to address legal considerations to be aware of when moving forward with a health contingent wellness program.
Alexa Galluzzo, Managing Consultant, Health and Productivity, The Partners Group