How and Why to Start a Corporate Wellness Program

How and Why to Start a Corporate Wellness Program

Work is for work, and wellness is for your personal time—at least, that’s how it was in the old days. But is that guy who comes into the office early, skips lunch, stays late, and seems to subsist off coffee and Red Bull really the model employee? Is he truly being his most productive by refusing to exercise and eat healthfully? No, he isn’t, and before long he will begin costing the company money in the form of increased healthcare costs and absenteeism due to sickness and psychological stress.

Promoting healthy habits isn’t just ethically good—it’s good for business, too. Studies routinely show that employee wellness programs lower healthcare costs across the board while curbing the risk of lifestyle-related disease. But don’t take it from us. As the Rand Health Quarterly concluded in an exhaustive report: 

Consistent with prior research, we find that lifestyle management interventions as a component of a wellness program can reduce risk factors, such as smoking, and increase healthy behaviors, such as exercise. We find that these effects are sustainable over time and clinically meaningful. This result is of critical importance, as it confirms that workplace wellness programs can help contain the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases, the main driver of premature morbidity and mortality as well as health care cost in the United States.

Here are the top reasons why you should start a corporate wellness program—and how to get started.

Lower Healthcare Costs

Healthcare is expensive—there’s no way around that. Especially if your organization is self-funded, there is a moral and financial imperative to keep your employees as healthy as possible. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 60 percent of companies report that workplace wellness programs reduced their organization’s overall healthcare costs, with robust wellness programs like Woliba leading to a return on investment (ROI) of $1.50 to $3.00 per dollar spent over a timeframe of two to nine years. The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) performed a exhaustive review of programs offering health risk assessments with feedback and health education, finding that for every dollar invested in health intervention, employees recouped between $1.40 and $4.60 in avoided medical- and productivity-associated losses.

At-risk employees can suffer from preventable conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and excess weight—factors that can be caught with routine health assessments through your wellness program. According to a Gallup State of the American Workplace study, employees with high overall wellbeing have 41 percent lower health-related costs compared to employees who are struggling. Meanwhile, a study by Willis, Towers, Perrin further found that more employers enjoy major financial returns and competitive advantages through higher employee engagement, productivity, and workplace morale.

The ROI of a full-featured corporate wellness program like Woliba is clear: Every dollar invested getting your employees healthier equals more dollars in reduced healthcare costs, whether in the form of lower health insurance premiums, direct outlays, or reduced employee absenteeism due to poor health.

More Productive Employees

Employees who participate in corporate wellness programs aren’t just healthier—they’re a lot more productive, too. Take it from researchers at the University of California Riverside, who found that companies providing employee wellness programs saw a significant gain in productivity among workers. Researchers studied a wellness program and found that all employees who participated improved productivity an average of one full workday per month.

In a time where the average worker is productive for three hours per day, boosting productivity should be a goal for organizations of every size. There are myriad reasons for low productivity, but physical and mental health top the list. Simply put, when you’re dealing with a health problem, when you’re heavily stressed, or when you’re plain-old burned out, the quality of your work plummets. In addition to helping employees get healthier, a wellness program like Woliba helps them stay at the top of their game with daily tips and a fully stocked wellness library. Whether beginning an effective weight-loss program or starting to train for a marathon, a wellness program keeps employees motivated to reach their goals—a drive that translates to their work performance as well.


Happier Employees

Approximately one-third of our lives are spent at work. Don’t we deserve to be happy for those 90,000 hours?

According to a study by Aflac, 70 percent of employees enrolled in wellness programs report higher job satisfaction than those not enrolled. And as APA noted, employees are much more likely to recommend a company that offers a comprehensive wellness program. Organizations that invest in wellness programs routinely see a major decrease in voluntary employee turnover—a key sign that employees are happy and content.

According to Hub International, employee morale is cited as the most improved (54 percent) metric from implementing wellness plans. In fact, employee retention is often cited as the top metric by which organizations measure the effectiveness of their employee wellness programs. Indeed, according to a survey by Optum, the more engaged an employee is with a wellness program, the more likely he or she is to stay with the company. Overall, 48 percent of employees that always or frequently participate in wellness programs are likely to recommend their employer to others compared to 30 percent and 29 percent for employees that occasionally and never participate, respectively.

Features like company challenges and rewards keep employees motivated while building comradery. In fact, 86 percent of Woliba users say that company challenges are their most loved feature. In a time when millions of employees are working from home, it’s more important than ever to foster togetherness with company-wide wellness challenges. With intuitive management features, you can quickly and easily create company-wide challenges, events, and wellbeing initiatives.


More Engaged Employees

What is the culture of your organization? It doesn’t matter how well your employees are paid or how many perks you offer—if an organization lacks a positive workplace culture that values inclusion, it will struggle. Every day, your employees should arrive at work knowing they are valued and appreciated.

That’s why any employee recognition program must place a priority on engagement. Wellness platforms like Woliba are built on a foundation of peer recognition to help decision-makers gain a valuable understanding of what the entire team values, not just the most visible players. Moreover, a customized wellness program that reaches employees at all levels of the organization is neither expensive nor time-consuming, with many employers finding that a tailored approach actually reduces costs while better serving all workers.

With Woliba, for example, all employees take initial wellness assessments that pinpoint areas of growth, from weight loss to smoking cessation to healthy eating to starting a weight-training program. From there, users can find coworkers with similar goals to help each other stay motivated and accountable. Whether it’s finding a workout buddy or joining a company-wide challenge, Woliba leverages the power of inclusion to help organizations foster a culture of recognition and wellbeing. 


Where to Start

Building a corporate wellness program from the ground up might seem like a daunting task, especially if you have many employees. The good news is that a full-service wellness program like Woliba is simple to integrate into your existing systems, including all the most popular calendar and database apps. Here’s how to get started:


Conduct surveys to evaluate the individual wellness needs of your employees. Seeking direct input from your employees helps nurture a sense of inclusion, empowering your team to take charge of their own health. Are your employees focused on weight loss? Maintaining healthy eating habits? Beginning an exercise program? Getting help quitting smoking? All of the above? For more information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance for how to design an employee health survey.

Conduct a health risk assessment. A basic health assessment will help identify areas of concern in your organization, giving you an idea of what health intervention programs need to be implemented. Numerous laws regulate how employee health assessments can be performed. Check out the CDC’s website for information on health risk assessments and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance on wellness programs in relation to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

Review group health plan utilization rates. By understanding the most used aspects of your employee health and pharmaceutical plans, you can gain key data about which future health interventions will keep costs down. How much is being sent on preventive care compared to treatment. How much of your outlays might be related to a sedentary lifestyle and other risk factors that might be addressed with a workplace intervention program?

Obtain management support. As with any initiative, obtaining management buy-in is integral for gaining support for a corporate wellness program. Be sure to come armed with the above information, and then be prepared to address how a wellness program will ultimately affect the company’s bottom line. Specifically, be prepared to address how a wellness program will affect short- and long-term strategic priorities and explain the overall benefits executives can expect from such a program. 

Establish a wellness committee. Creating an employee-driven wellness committee is especially important in large organizations with a diverse workforce. In addition to surveys, a wellness committee needs to interview employees at every level of the organization to ensure all health and wellness needs are accounted for. This way, when you do implement your wellness program, engagement remains high and no one feels left out.

Develop goals and objectives. With the results of your employee surveys and interviews, you can establish goals and objectives for your program. Is the goal to improve workers’ health and lower healthcare costs? Reduce absenteeism while improving productivity? Decrease turnover? In many cases, you’ll find a full-service wellness program like Woliba can accomplish each of these goals.

These are only the first steps toward implementing your employee wellness program. Remember that wellness is an initiative that benefits individuals at all levels of your organization for the long-term. The actions you take now to be as inclusive as possible will form long-lasting habits that lead to a healthier and happier workforce. For more information about what Woliba can do for your organization, please reach out to our sales team to book a demo.


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