Wellness programs will likely continue to be one of the most popular employee benefits in 2018, and that’s exciting news, because wellness programs are a win-win for both employers and employees. Employers save on healthcare costs as their employees take steps to be healthier. Employees receive the motivation and support they need to improve and maintain their health.
However, while the number of employers offering wellness programs has increased, participation rates remain low.1,2 To entice employees and get them excited enough to participate in a wellness program, you’ll want to introduce new and exciting components to your program. In this post, we look at the benefits of a wellness program, barriers to participation, and how to increase participation through new and exciting wellness program ideas.
Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs
Most organizations today offer some sort of workplace wellness program. And, a workplace wellness program is worth having as these statistics demonstrate3:
• Wellness programs offer a return on investment of $1.50 to $3 per dollar for every dollar spent over two to nine years.
• Over 60% of employers say that their workplace wellness program reduced the amount they spend on healthcare.
• It doesn’t take much to spend significantly less on healthcare. Simply walking 30 minutes each day, eating healthy, not smoking, maintaining a healthy waist circumference, and drinking alcohol in moderation can reduce healthcare costs by as much as 50%.
However, to enjoy these perks as an employer, employees need to participate in your wellness program, and that can sometimes be easier said than done.
Workplace Wellness Participation Barriers
A recent survey showed that only 50% of employees surveyed participated in well-being activities, only 48% participated in health risk and biometric assessments, only 22% participated in workplace diet and exercises programs, and a mere 8% participated in healthy sleep or smoking cessation programs.2
So, even though most employers are on-board with supporting the wellness needs of their employees—66% of companies have expanded their wellness activity offerings3—there’s a disconnect, because employees aren’t fully participating in company wellness programs. In some cases, they aren’t participating at all, despite their interest in a healthier lifestyle or physique.
Some of the reasons for low participation rates include2:
• Employees feel that their workplace wellness program does not encourage them to live any healthier (in a recent study, only a third of employees believed that their workplace wellness program encouraged a healthier lifestyle).
• Employees (71%) would rather manage their health themselves.
• The workplace wellness program doesn’t meet the needs of employees.
In some cases, a lack of trust and concerns about privacy have prevented workers from participating—they don’t want their employer to have access to their health data.2
This of course means that if you want your employees to participate in your wellness program, make sure your wellness program addresses their needs, promotes a healthy lifestyle, supports their individual efforts to manage their health, and encourages trust.
But beyond these elements, make sure you’re tapping into your employees’ emotions. Because, a person’s greatest motivator is emotion; specifically, the feeling that one is getting closer to achieving a goal of personal importance.4
The lesson to be learned?
Aside from making your workplace wellness program relevant, purposeful, and transparent, make sure you’re jazzing it up with exciting offerings and features—the kind of activities, rewards, and motivators that tap into your employees’ emotions, making them more committed to transforming their health.
To get started, we offer ways to make your wellness program more enticing and engaging—basically, several ways to get your employees excited enough to participate in your wellness program more often and more regularly.
How to Make Your Wellness Program More Enticing So More Employees Participate
Because wellness programs can encompass many different facets, we broke down our list of ideas into three major categories. Those having to do with fitness, those having to do with nutrition, and those having to do with mental health/relaxation.
The best way to use this list is to identify one or two ideas that you could implement and give them a go.
Because a significant number of employees prefer to manage their own health, offering on-site personal training is a great way to provide support for wellness behaviors without interfering with the employee’s autonomy. Other ideas include:
• Subsidizing the cost of fitness tracking devices.
• Creating company sports leagues that stir up friendly competition in a social environment.
• Turn meetings into walking meetings.
• Reward healthy milestones with stand-up desks, treadmill desks or fitness ball seats—these are expensive items that some employees really want but can’t afford to buy themselves.
Interest in local food is increasing rapidly. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that direct to consumer sales of edible farm products increased three-fold between 1992 and 2007, with revenue from sales jumping from $404 million to $1.2 billion.5 For many this comes as no surprise given the emergence of subscription meal services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron.
Hence, employers may want to consider this trend and take heed. As interest in healthy, farm-to-table produce grows, it may be time to add a coordinated community sponsored agriculture program to your workplace wellness program. Connect with local farms and coordinate the delivery of fresh produce directly to the office for employees. You could even develop menus that suggest ways to use the ingredients in the box.
Other ways to make the nutrition aspect of your wellness program more enticing include:
• Host on-site healthy cooking classes—consider hosting these in the evening or at a local restaurant and invite employees and their spouses to join. Employees could turn this into a free date night and that’s exciting!
• Subsidize the cost of meal subscription services such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh.
• Invite a dietitian to the office to answer nutrition-related questions and create custom meal plans for employees once a month—you could create your own version of Weight Watchers which is much more exciting and personal!
Findings from the Mental Health and Substance Abuse 2016 Survey made it clear that poor mental health is a problem and workplaces need to help their employees manage their mental and emotional well-being. According to the survey results, 94% of organizations surveyed acknowledged that their employees are stressed, and 61% said that depression was prevalent in their organization.6
So, it’s definitely a good idea to implement strategies to excite workers about mental health programs and benefits. However, because mental health is such a personal and private experience for people, and because research indicates an unfortunate amount of distrust between employees and their employers, it may be best to provide ways for employees to relax as opposed to eliciting information about their mental health and using that to create a more engaging wellness program.
Here are a few ideas to help employees relax:
• Provide free massages at work once a week—bring in a masseuse who can offer chair massage or purchase a set of massage chairs and encourage workers to take frequent breaks to use them.
• Pay employees a small bonus if they don’t check their email while on vacation.
• Offer unlimited vacation time so employees don’t have to experience the stress of counting how many days they can take off. If they need a day off, give it them. It shows you trust them, and chances are, if they needed the day off, they won’t be very productive at work that day anyway.
Making Employees Excited Enough to Participate in Your Wellness Program is Easier with a Partner at Your Side
Improving your wellness program is no easy task. Before implementing any enticing ideas, you’ll of course want to make sure you understand the needs of your employees and how you can realistically address those needs within your organization. Fortunately, you don’t need to do this alone. Partner with a benefits administrator. Though, they’ll offer everything from FSA administration and FSA administrators to revolutionary new products, they also offer a variety of resources which can make improving a wellness program much easier. Learn more today at Clarity Benefit Solutions.