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Create Your Own Wellness Program

As stated earlier, a top motivation for utilizing wellness programs is to promote the health and wellness of employees. When starting to think about developing a workplace wellness program, keep in mind these guidelines outlined below.

Step 1 – Conduct a Workplace Health Assessment

Ask your employees a few simple questions to understand the current state of health at your company.  This can be done through informal conversations, a call for ideas (suggestion box or bulletin board), or even an online survey.

Understanding the answers to these questions will not only help you develop a program unique to your business, but it will also begin to involve employees in the wellness program. Employee involvement is key to the long term success of your program. 

There are many wonderful assessment tools readily available, including ones created by the CDC, our partner Wellable, and the WorkWell Missouri Toolkit, just to name a few.[i] A few common categories and questions often seen in assessments are shown below:

 

Step 2 – Plan the Program

Now that you know the health needs of your organization, you can create a program that reflects those needs.

Establish your Champion. Start with identifying one point of contact for your organization. This person will be your “health champion” and will not only help design the program, but also be the one to rally employees to participate. Your champion should be able to communicate clearly and succinctly the program and its goals to other employees.

Create a Plan. Now that you have a champion, have him or her work with management to create a plan to implement the program. Some elements to that plan should include:

  • Establishing a committee to help plan the program.
  • Creating the program to address the health challenges unique to your business.
  • Defining success of the program.
  • Establishing resources such as costs, local partners and staffing for the program.
  • Creating your marketing message system for the program.

Keep in mind that workplace wellness programs do not have to cost significant amounts of money. There are many simple programs available that can be no or low-cost for small businesses.

Step 3 – Implement the Program

An ideal program will have a mixture of health related programs and policies you can implement in your business. These should all be supplemental to health insurance, which is the biggest health benefit you could establish for your employees.

Some examples of programs you can establish:

  • Physical Activity: Establish a weekly yoga class, create a running club, encourage stair use, put up a rotating art display in stairwells or around the office, set walking meetings or install standing desks.
  • Healthy Nutrition and Weight Management: Provide nutrition education, stock healthy options in vending machines and breakrooms, make water available and encourage nutrition labeling.
  • Tobacco Cessation: Eliminate ashtrays or provide low-cost or no-cost healthcare options for  tobacco cessation services and aids.
  • Stress Management: Hold financial literacy classes, provide training for management for early identification and action on stress-related issues, provide a dedicated relaxation space, host social events to build strong team relationships, allow and encourage physical activity during the workday, or provide benefits designed to increase a work-life balance such as elder or childcare, flexible scheduling and opportunity for advancement.
  • High Blood Glucose Management: Provide free screenings, provide diabetes educational workshops and promotional materials, provide low-cost or no-cost healthcare options for employees with or at risk of diabetes or implement healthy nutrition and weight management and physical activity wellness policies.
  • Alcohol Management: Provide low-cost or no-cost healthcare options for alcohol management, counseling and treatment, or provide a free alcohol program to employees and spouses that is hosted by a professional resource, does not require a referral to participate, provides confidentiality and holds no penalties for participation.

Some examples of policies you can establish:

  • Physical Activity: Create policies allowing for flexible work schedules or breaks during the day to allow employees and management time for physical activity, to exercise or to attend health programs.
  • Healthy Nutrition and Weight Management: Create healthy eating policies that support environmental changes (e.g., healthy vending machines, healthy foods in cafeterias or required nutrition labeling).
  • Tobacco Cessation: Create a written policy banning tobacco use on company grounds and post signs to that effect.
  • Stress Management: Policies that are not specifically health-related may have health impacts on employees. Human resources policies such as those related to work hours or leave (e.g.,vacation time), flexible scheduling, work organization and supervisory style should be developed with desired health goals in mind.[ii]
  • High Blood Glucose Management: Implement policies related to healthy nutrition and weight management and physical activity, such as healthy food choices and break times for physical activity.
  • Alcohol Management: Consider whether alcohol should be allowed and what happens if someone violates the policy. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has a model policy designed for employer use.[iii]

Other benefits could include discounts or subsidies for fitness facility memberships, creation of a supportive leadership structure and environmental measures such as control of dust, fumes and vapors, good lighting and well-designed work spaces.

Now that you have a program in mind, get it started!

Step 4 – Determine Impact through Evaluation

It is important to assess how well your workplace health program can be sustained over time, how it is received by employees and management and its return on investment.

It is key to select an evaluation method that works for your business. There are many types of surveys to choose from, and the CDC Workplace Health Promotion toolkit provides a comprehensive overview of how to design, administer, and analyze your assessments, discusses pros and cons for each format, and provides links to example surveys.[iv] Whatever assessment your business chooses to utilize, stick with it over the course of your wellness program to effectively measure change over a period of time. Some of the more common survey formats include:

  • In-person paper and pencil questionnaires
  • Mailed or emailed questionnaires
  • Web-based tools such as Survey Monkey or Zoho Survey
  • In-person interviews or focus groups

We recommend that your evaluation focus on questions that are relevant and useful to those who will use the findings. The goal of the evaluation shoud be to strengthen and improve existing wellness programs and activities, identify potential gaps or areas of improvement and describe the effectiveness of the program.[v] 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides some key insights into the type questions you should ask in the evaluation phase, which include the following:

  • Are employees aware of the wellness program components?
  • Did you provide multiple opportunities throughout the year for feedback from employees?
  • Did you set up a process for input and suggestions and make employees aware of the process?
  • What are your short-term and long-term results? This may include financial impact as well as less tangible impacts such as improved employee morale.
  • Have you met the goals you lined out in the planning phase? If not, how can you change your program to obtain those desired results?
  • Are employees more productive?
  • Was your initial financial investment enough, and were your partnerships effective?
  • Are employees participating in all the components of the program?
 

[i] Centers for Disease Control (2016). Workplace Health Resources. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/tools-resources/workplace-h... University of Missouri Extention (2016). WorkWell Missouri Toolkit. http://extension.missouri.edu/hes/workwell/WorkWellToolkit.pdf; Wellable (2017). Resources. https://www.wellable.co/Resources

[ii] Centers for Disease Control (May 2016). Workplace Health Model. http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/model/index.html

[iii] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (September 2016). Develop a Policy. https://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/toolkit/develop-policy

[iv] Centers for Disease Control (2016). Workplace Health Promotion. https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/index.html

[v] Centers for Disease Control (May 2016). Workplace Health Model. http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/model/index.html