In part 1 of this series we explored how a health and wellness program can be an important part of driving employee success, not to mention the thousands of dollars in health care costs the programs can save. But with schedules filled to capacity, and budgets running close to empty, who has the time or resources to address employee health education? In part 2 of this series we examine this question. Just like any personal health plan, starting is the hardest part, but once a commitment is present the rest is a matter of celebrating results. The following four planning steps are referenced from the Partnerships for a Healthy Workforce.
Step 1: Gain Support
Your program planning skills may already be sharp, but revolutionizing an environment may require additional help. Gather a group of employees ranging from entry level to senior management who are willing to support and promote the program, this will also help increase employee buy-in.
With an employee health advisory panel on board, begin brainstorming about how to create a culture reflective of healthy behaviors. Would you like to sponsor a community race? How about an incentive based walking program?
According to Partnerships for a Healthy Workforce (PWH), health experts agree that having a supportive environment to encourage healthy choices is the most influential factor in altering lifestyle habits.
Step 2: Assess the needs
Before you begin sponsoring 10K races and replacing candy bars with protein bars, it is a good idea to know in what types of activities your employees may be interested.
To get a comprehensive idea of what to plan and how to plan it, administer a needs assessment that asks employees about their interest in various types of health promotion activities and the most convenient times and places to schedule activities.
In addition, health risk appraisals help determine current employee disease risks, and collects baseline data that can be stored for program evaluation. According to The New York Times Well Blog about 80 percent of large employers offer health risk surveys aimed at identifying health problems or potential health problems.
Step 3: Define success
Just like any other business initiative, a health and wellness plan should include a strategic mission, related to the organizational mission, and a vision.
Decide what results you want to see and write down specific health and wellness goals. By how much do you want to reduce sick leave? How many employees would you like to quit smoking? Set well planned, measurable and time limited goals.
Next, reflect back to the brainstorming session and write down a variety of activities to support your goals. By taking into account the results from the needs assessment, plan creative events that will spark employee interest and participation. Just like program goals, objectives should measurable and limited.
Here are some examples of program objectives:
– Sponsor three company fitness challenges by January 1st
– Replace seven vending machine items with seven healthy options
– 93% of workers will complete a health risk appraisal in the next 3 months
Step 4: Make it worth-while
Let’s face it, no matter how much time you spend on program planning, or how creative your events are, employees may need an extra push to embrace the wellness path. Incentive programs, ranging from employee recognition to financial rewards, offer extra motivation.
According to the “Employee Wellness Blog,” a 95% participation rate occurred when one company, Nature Sunshine, proposed that if employees joined their health and wellness plan they would continue getting their health benefits paid for.
Organizations are also finding rewards for taking the time to plan health and wellness programs. According to a New York Times article, Congress is currently considering proposals that would give employers tax credits if they offer periodic screening for health problems.
No matter what your approach, taking the time to prepare a well thought-out plan can help you overcome your budget and times challenges, and create a program that will truly help your employees make better decisions about their health that will help them live more productive lives inside outside of your workplace.
Don’t forget to check out next week’s blog, we will be blogging about how to implement a wellness program and track its results.
Sources: Healthy Workforce 2010: An Essential Health Promotion Sourcebook for Employers, Large and Small (Partnerships For a Healthy Workplace, 2001); Getting More Out of Wellness Perks, (Tara Parker-Pope The New York Times Well Blog); Wellness Incentives Pay Off (wellnessblog.employeewelnessusa.com); Congress Plans Incentives for Healthy Habits (Robert Pear, The New York Times)