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The secret to implementing a successful corporate wellness program

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The facts are clear: Wellness programs lead to cost savings, happier employees and a more productive workforce. Most likely, little else needs to be said to sway your CFO, but a larger problem remains. How do you implement and maintain a corporate wellness program that works?

The facts:

* Fifty-75 percent of all dollars spent on health-plan costs are lifestyle, or behaviorally, driven from conditions like obesity, hypertension, stress and smoking.

* By reducing the lifestyle-driven portion of the expense, companies can impact or mitigate the insurance cost.

* From 2002-2008, Johnson & Johnson saved $250 million dollars through their corporate wellness program, with the program returning $2.71 for every dollar invested, according to Jeffrey Hollender in an article titled "Invest in Employee Wellness: Johnson & Johnson reports $250 Million ROI."

* Fifty-six studies have shown that the ROI of corporate wellness programs are an even higher $5.81 for every $1 spent due to reduced medical costs and absenteeism, according to a white paper from the American Institute for Preventative Medicine titled "The Health & Economic Implications of Worksite Wellness Programs."

The challenges:

* Employers don't know how to do it. They may be unsure of regulations, and best practices and weary of "encouraging" employees to quit smoking, or begin exercising and improving their diets.

* Organizations may not have the resources to successfully manage such a program.

* Companies are uncertain of the investment and resources needed to implement such a program, with objections like "How much more does this cost on top of my healthcare costs? There is no additional budget for this. This sounds like a lot of work, who will manage the program?"

The solutions:

* Total employee wellness -- Wellness means taking complete responsibility of the items you have control over like obesity, hypertension, stress and smoking.

* Get employees on board -- The art form is getting employees to voluntarily participate. Wellness plans cannot achieve success if employees don't participate and sometimes people are not motivated for change. Committed participation is the art form or "secret sauce."

* Work with an expert -- Find a company that works with customers to create cost savings, on their insurance premiums, through their unique wellness program.

Successful wellness programs lead to cost savings and happier, more productive employees. The secret to success is choosing the right partner to implement the program and help get employees motivated.


Written by Gary Levine, CEO of GS Levine Commercial Insurance Services

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5 UserComments
Sabrina Riddell 11:14am May 11, 2013

I work at a medical lab and they contradict themselves. They encourage a wellness program and have newsletters to encourage healthy eating and good exercise. However, as a reward the managers bring in extra large pizzas and boxes of fried chicken. I think the managers need more education on what wellness really is all about.

Rebecca 2:58pm May 6, 2013

This is truly the future in corporate wellness. Reaching demographics that would otherwise not reach for a healthier lifestyle.

Joe Byrd 12:08pm May 6, 2013

Agreed! We all know the benefits, but most employers are still weary of implementation and support. Our clients have seen more and more success as employees get (and stay) engaged. In fact, when they take ownership and build the program through feedback on their goals, the environment can be tailored to the needs of the employees. Programming FOR employees and not AT employees has been a big factor in success in businesses of all sizes. This mentality has lead to voluntary participation and steady increase in commitment over time. Great article with great supporting stats and keys.

Michaela Conley 7:31am May 6, 2013

I agree particularly about the need to work with a health promotion / wellness professional to create a comprehensive, evidence based worksite wellness program. However, there are things that employers can do right away educate themselves and get the ball rolling. One such free step is to review some of the archives available free of charge on HPLive.org. HPLive.org offers free weekly webinars with nationally & internationally recognized experts on topics important to professionals in health promotion related fields. While our webinars are intended for industry professionals many are applicable to employers who are interested in success stories from other organizations. I recommend the C Evertt Koop Health Prize winner series found on HPLive.org

Greta Brand 5:09am April 30, 2013

You're so right! And there is a little woo-woo in the Wellness arena, so employers can rightfully feel confused. But with the focus on the things you mentioned, the possibilities can be amazing.