Best Practices in Worksite Wellness
To make a worksite wellness program effective, best practices should be followed. In worksite wellness, many best practices have been developed to ensure a successful program. Various companies, organizations, and research have shown the most effective ways to create and implement a worksite wellness program. Following is a summary of the most common best practices used for worksite wellness programs.
- Management Support - Obtaining management support on all levels is important because employees need to see that management supports health and is involved in the process in order for the company to see high involvement and participation from the employees. Strong senior level support helps to contain cost and improve employee health.1,2
- Worksite Health Promotion Aligned with Business Objectives - Management and employees need to see how health and wellness benefit their organization’s goals through the decrease in disease, illness, and injury, and the increase in productivity, cost containment, and profitability. A healthy workforce should be part of the organization’s mission.1
- Supportive Environment - There should be a supportive environment for employees to make behavior change, and a culture in the organization that is focused on health. This can take shape in the form of policies, physical modifications, and rewards.1,2
- Creation of a Worksite Team - The team helps build the worksite program and distributes responsibility for wellness across the company.2
- Data Collection for Health Efforts - Data collection through health risk appraisals and knowledge and interest surveys direct the health program to focus on the needs and interests of the company.2
- Implementation Plan - The implementation plan will guide the company’s efforts and investments in the wellness program. It will also include the programs that are best suited for the company’s health. These programs can include tobacco cessation, physical activity, nutrition, weight management, self-care, and stress management, to name a few.1,2
- Employee Ownership and Involvement - Employees need to feel they play a role in the health programming and activities. This can be achieved through employees participating on wellness committees and providing input via brainstorming and evaluation into programs offered.1
- Frequent Communication - It is beneficial to provide employees with reminders and multiple invitations to wellness opportunities. Methods of communication include, but are not limited to, flyers, email, newsletters, and lunch-and-learns. Communication does not always have to be specific to activities at work, but can also include activities that can be done at home or in the community. Targeted, personalized health messages provide specific health information for people who have or have shown interest in a particular topic. Wellness updates and announcements can be provided during staff meetings to keep the health culture alive in a company.1
- Incentives for Participation - Incentives can be helpful to increase participation in health programs. They can also add interest to the program.1,2
- Multilevel Program Development - Plan a mix of health programs to gain the interest of all employees. Have programs for people in different stages of behavior change, i.e. those looking to make a behavior change, those who have already made a behavior change, and those who are maintaining a behavior change. Programs should also be diverse in the age groups targeted, gender and cultural differences, as well as level of fitness (beginner vs. seasoned).1
- Evidence-Based Programs - Programs should be based on effective health principles and data.1,2
- Outcome Evaluation - This includes tracking and evaluating employee participation, employee participation satisfaction, behavior modification, and cost containment.2
A review of the literature conducted by Matson Koffman, et al (2005), on worksite and clinical programs that focused on best practices to prevent cardiovascular disease detailed ways to create and implement worksite programs. The programs spotlighted from companies of various sizes across the country are comprehensive and have been shown to reduce health complications and reduce healthcare costs. Some of the best practices presented include strong support from senior management, human resources, and buy-in from middle management; health messages and an environment that supports health; an employee-driven advisory board or health promotion team/committee; resourceful, committed, and interdisciplinary health promotion staff; effective planning, implementation, and evaluation of program objectives; various, easily accessible health promotion programs and services; frequent and regular contact with employees; helping employees meet their goals; incentive for participation; link between health promotion goals and business goals; and ongoing evaluation of health promotion programs.3
The Future of Medicine organization has also created a best practices in worksite wellness guideline.
The National Wellness Institute provides a pre-recorded webinar entitled, "Best Practices for a Successful Worksite Wellness Program."
3Matson Koffman, D.M., Goetzel, R.Z., Anwuri, V.V., Shore, K.K., Orenstein, D., & LaPier, T. (2005) Heart healthy and stroke free: Successful business strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease. Am J Prev Med, 29(5S1):113–121.
2Wellness Council of America. (2008). WELCOA's 7 benchmarks: An executive summary. Retrieved from http://www.welcoa.org/wwp/pdf/wwp_7cs_es.pdf
1Wellsource. (n.d). Worksite wellness program best practices. Retrieved from http://www.wellsource.com/articles-mhc/Worksite-Wellness-Program-Best-Practices.html
The Case for Worksite Wellness
The American Heart Association supports the implementation of comprehensive worksite wellness programs. Worksite wellness programs are effective in improving the health of the United States as a whole. With over 130 million Americans employed in the United States, this is an important population to target. Employees spend a large portion of their day at work, which further proves the need to provide healthy workplaces. Healthcare costs are rising, and chronic diseases that can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle are major players in the cost increases. Rising healthcare costs also impact employers, especially those with employees with chronic diseases. More and more profits made are spent on employees with excess health risks. Poor health of employees harms the company through increased health care plan costs, loss of productivity, and higher rates of absenteeism, injury and disability. Getting employees to improve their health and reduce the risk will save the company money. Worksite wellness programs can also attract exceptional employees, enhance morale and commitment, and reduce turnover. Lastly, rate of return on investment for most worksite wellness programs ranges from $3 to $15 for each dollar invested, with savings realized after year one.1
Indirect costs to employers resulting from poor health of employees can have higher costs than direct medical costs. Productivity losses due to poor health of the person or a member of his or her family cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year or $225.8 billion annually. Worksite wellness programs can help improve the health of the nation and reduce healthcare costs. Worksite wellness programs have the potential to promote healthy behavior, establish health policies, and reduce disease and injury.2
It is essential to address not only high cost groups (i.e. diabetes and heart disease) but also at risk groups who have modifiable risk factors such as obesity, low physical activity, poor diet, and tobacco use that are associated with future chronic disease conditions that put them in the high cost group. The company should aim to manage the health risk of all employees whether high risk or low risk.3
1American Heart Association. Position statement on effective worksite wellness programs. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_308067.pdf
2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Comprehensive workplace health programs to address physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco use in the workplace. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/nhwp/index.html
3Partnership for Prevention. (2009). Healthy workforce 2010 and beyond. Retrieved from www.prevent.org/downloadStart.aspx?id=18