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There is no question that wellness benefits have become all the rage in recent years. Companies of all sizes are offering benefits such as on-site exercise facilities, healthy food during the workday, and flexible work hours in order to improve employee health and morale. Wellness has been treated as something of a cure-all for business ills ranging from healthcare costs to high turnover rates. Are they worth the hype? We think mostly so, but that in order for wellness programs to be effective they should be tailored to your company’s values and your employees’ specific needs.

In today’s post we’ll explore the main reasons why you should adopt wellness benefits including:

  • Decrease healthcare costs
  • Genuinely help employees
  • Adapt to and augment company culture
  • Increase employee engagement for productivity and retention

Let’s take a look at what wellness benefits are, how they can help your business, and how you can get started creating a wellness program of your own.

Benefits Overview

So what exactly are wellness benefits? Generally speaking, they are any program that is intended to improve an employee’s mental or physical health. Companies are increasingly adopting wellness benefits in order to keep their healthcare costs low or increase employee morale.

Typically wellness benefits fall into one or both of two categories: those that address mental health and those that address physical health. Screenings and counseling can help identify both mental and physical issues at the same time, but the wellness solutions to the two different categories of health are generally different.

Some examples of physical wellness benefits are:

  • Contests for exercise, weight loss, or smoking cessation
  • Subsidized gym membership or on-site exercise facilities
  • Free healthy food in-office
  • Diet and exercise education and counseling

While mental wellness benefits can include:

  • Flexible vacation and remote-work policies
  • In-office breaks
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Support groups

Later we’ll explore how you can assemble the right wellness package that best fits your company’s values and your employees’ needs. But first let’s examine just why you should consider implementing wellness benefits in the first place.

They Work

One of the main reasons why wellness benefits are catching on so quickly is that they just work. In fact, wellness programs have an average ROI of three to one. There are several reasons why the return on investment is so high – the first one being that it doesn’t take that much of an investment to create wellness benefits. Some programs can be expensive, but benefits like education and competitions are easy to set up and require almost no monetary commitment. Fundamentally, wellness is a form of prevention, which is almost always more cost effective than treatment. So even benefits which involve medical care, such as screening programs, save big bucks in the long run.

The most obvious impact on your bottom line is decreased medical expenses overall. Wellness benefits are especially effective at targeting common ‘lifestyle’ issues, like smoking and obesity, and associated chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They have proven successful in encouraging exercise, healthier eating, weight loss, smoking cessation, and increased mental health; all of which lower medical costs.

But the financial benefit doesn’t end there. Because employees become healthier and happier, they miss work less frequently and are less stressed at work. This leads to increased productivity and decreased turnover, which are major benefits to your bottom line and to the success of your organization as a whole.

They Actually Help Employees

Unlike other methods of cutting healthcare costs, wellness benefits are actually about making employees’ lives better. They decrease the need for healthcare, rather than the coverage itself, and in-so-doing put the employee’s needs front and center. Wellness programs only work for the company if they succeed in helping employees; the ROI comes directly from improved employee health.

This makes your job a lot easier – and more rewarding. You get to think about what’s genuinely best for all of your employees and then make it happen. And for once you won’t have to fight tooth and nail to get employees to adopt the new initiatives, because the benefit to them will be self-evident. Employees are the lifeblood of any company; make the most of this opportunity to make their lives better while also helping the company succeed.

They Adapt to and Augment Company Culture

Every company’s challenges are different, and the solutions need to be as well. Your wellness benefits can and should be tailored to fit your company’s specific needs, goals, and values. They are also often most effective when implemented with your company culture in mind; choose the benefits that reflect what your company stands for.

If your wellness benefits are aligned with your culture, they are more likely to be adopted by your employees and are more likely to address your employees’ challenges effectively. And if you have a strong culture, then your employees are already onboard with its values, so they will embrace benefits that reflect those values.

Best of all, when you implement wellness benefits that are aligned with your company culture, they will become an important part of the culture over time. Wellness can be an enormous asset to your culture, serving as proof that your culture is fostering a sense of shared values and commitments.

They Increase Engagement

Because wellness benefits are intended improve employees’ well-being, they generally make employees feel more valued. They are frequently viewed by employees as quality-of-life benefits that are meant help them more than they help the company.

The fact of the matter is that even if you were to implement wellness benefits purely to cut healthcare costs, you would still have to make your employees’ lives better in order to attain that goal. And your employees would appreciate you, and their work, more for it. When your employees feel valued, they will be more engaged with their work, increasing their productivity and decreasing turnover.

Don’t just take our word for it – a recent study found that 85% of employers saw an increase in engagement after implementing wellness benefits, and that employee engagement was actually the primary reason for providing wellness benefits for 42% of companies surveyed.

We probably don’t have to explain to you how much it helps to have your employees engaged in their work. Wellness benefits can help solve the retention crisis that many businesses are facing in today’s economy. Turnover is a fact of life and an expensive problem that is only getting worse, especially when it comes top talent.  And, a major driver of turnover is the difficulty of providing meaningful work. So, when companies release wellness benefits that get employees engaged in their work, they can do wonders for employee retention and productivity. In 2016, Aflac found that 60% of employees would take a job with lower salary but higher benefits, and that 42% of employees said that increasing benefits would help keep them in their jobs.

How to Create a Wellness Program

So, wellness benefits can decrease your healthcare costs, strengthen your company culture, increase employee productivity and retention. But you may be wondering how to get started setting up a wellness program. Well, let’s explore the basics of introducing wellness benefits in your organization.

In order to develop an effective wellness program, you should determine what health issues you need to address. You can do this in a few different ways. The first is to consider the main healthcare issues nationwide, particularly for the demographics that reflect your workforce. The second is to look at your healthcare expenses over recent years for main drivers of healthcare costs. The third, and best, way to figure out what issues to tackle is to conduct a Health Risk Assessment, or HRA, company-wide. These questionnaires provide you with the information you need to identify the issues that most affect your employees. Third-party vendors can conduct the assessment in order to maximize employee comfort and participation and can analyze the results for you to give you the best possible insights.

Once you have determined what issues you want to tackle, it’s time to decide on what programs you want to implement. We encourage you to choose the benefits based on the issues you identified in conjunction with your company culture. Don’t think too much about what other companies are doing to address the same issues, try to think about how your company should solve them. Every company is different, and you want your programs to be in line with what your company values.

Wellness programs generally fall into four main categories: screening, education, incentives, and counseling. Screening generally encompasses preventative care beyond what is covered under the standard healthcare plan and helps you catch potential issues before they start affecting employee health and well-being. Education empowers employees to take control of their health and can take the form of health fairs, regularly scheduled health seminars or talks. Incentives directly encourage employees to act to improve their wellness by making it easier to make healthy changes or rewarding wellness accomplishments. Examples of incentives include contests, subsidized gym membership, free therapy or guided exercise sessions on-site, or rewards for participating in the other components of the wellness program such as screenings or educational talks. Finally, counseling allows employees to receive confidential advice about their physical, mental, or financial health.

Now that you have decided which programs can make the most difference for your employees, implement them enthusiastically and consistently. Get key stakeholders, especially executives and managers, deeply involved in all of your wellness programs. Effective wellness should be fun and rewarding, but they also involve challenging employee’s habits and lifestyles, so your leadership teams can encourage adoption by getting fully onboard themselves.

If you follow these guidelines, you should have a strong wellness program that is tailored to what your company stands for and what your employees need to be the healthiest and happiest versions of themselves. Just one last thing – listen to your employees once you have rolled out wellness. They likely know what they want and need better than you do, so you can continue to develop a more effective wellness strategy by encouraging and integrating their feedback.

Key Takeaways

We’ve thrown a lot of information about wellness at you in this article. Don’t worry if you can’t remember it all – you can always come back to refresh your memory. Just remember these key points when you start thinking about developing a wellness program:

  • Wellness is worth everything you put into it and more
  • Your company culture should guide your wellness strategy – and your benefits will strengthen your culture in return
  • Wellness benefits actually improve your employees’ lives and make them more engaged with their work, increasing retention and productivity
  • There is no right way to implement wellness, do what makes sense for you and your employees, and don’t forget to have fun

There are many ways to integrate wellness benefits into your business. We certainly have not covered everything in this article, but hopefully you now have a better sense of what wellness can do for your organization and how you can start putting together a wellness program. We would love to hear from you about your wellness strategies successes, so post any ideas we may have missed in the comments!

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