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5 strategies for getting a real return out of employee wellness programs

wellness programFor decades now, we’ve seen human resources leaders invest a great deal of money into corporate health and wellness, spending on making their employees healthier not just physically, but mentally and financially as well. This has been a large-scale trend for a while, and it’s become so commonplace that some companies jump on the bandwagon even without a clear picture of why wellness is so valuable.

Recently some have begun to question this. Is it really worth it to invest so much in the health of your workforce? Healthier people aren’t guaranteed to be more productive for your business – and even if they are, you’re not guaranteed to retain them anyway. There’s a chance that all that wellness spending is going to waste.

According to Harvard Business Review, however, there’s no reason to worry. Leonard Berry, a marketing leadership professor at Texas A&M University, has investigated this question in depth, and he’s found that time and time again, a strong wellness investment pays off.

He cited the example of Johnson and Johnson’s employee wellness over the last two decades. Since 1995, the percentage of the company’s staff members who smoke has dropped by more than two-thirds. High blood pressure and physical inactivity have also fallen by over 50 percent. As a result, employee leaders at J&J estimate that wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs in just 10 years. That’s a return of about $2.71 for each dollar invested.

“Wellness programs have often been viewed as a nice extra, not a strategic imperative,” Berry noted. “Newer evidence tells a different story. With tax incentives and grants available under recent federal health care legislation, U.S. companies can use wellness programs to chip away at their enormous health care costs, which are only rising with an aging workforce.”

The following are five strategies for getting a real return on your company’s wellness investment:

Get buy-in at all levels
Wellness programs work best when everyone buys in. Managers should care about enforcing good habits, and individual employees should also have an interest in doing what’s healthy for them.

Motivate with carrots, not sticks
Punishing people for bad habits doesn’t tend to be the most effective wellness strategy. Instead, what you should do is provide positive incentives for employees who get healthy. Carrots work better than sticks, they always say.

Go for a broad wellness scope
If you only focus on one aspect of wellness (for example, weight loss), you can only achieve narrow results. The way to build a healthier, more productive workforce is to have a more complete approach, improving all different types of health.

Build valuable partnerships
Sometimes, your company needs a little bit of help in the wellness department. Partner with a gym to offer memberships and help people exercise. Work with a local hospital on private screenings. Reach out and ask for help when necessary.

Communicate initiatives and goals
Finally – what good is having a wellness program if no one knows about it? Follow up regularly with your employees and make sure they’re getting the message about wellness. Everyone should be told, in no uncertain terms, about the value of staying healthy.

Learn 5 Strategies for Sustainable Wellness Programs. LifeWorks. Makes Work Life Better™. 

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