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When we think about employee benefits, we often think of a salary, health insurance, dental insurance, and a 401k. Those are important aspects of a compensation package, but employers shouldn’t overlook wellness programs. These programs are good for both individual employees and the company as a whole.

What Is a Wellness Program?

There are many different types of wellness programs and ways to implement them, but they all have something in common: they’re meant to promote health and well-being. Here are just a few examples:

  • On-Site Fitness Classes
  • Gym Membership Allowance
  • Weight Loss Challenge (with Incentives for Participation and Progress)
  • Diabetes Management
  • Stop Smoking Programs
  • Health Screenings
  • On-Site Massage Therapist
  • Nutrition Seminars or Healthy Cooking Classes
  • Healthy Office Lunches and Snacks
  • Meditation or Stress Reduction Classes
  • Counseling

Benefits of a Wellness Program

There are clear benefits to the employee: they get a free (or low-cost) and convenient way to improve their health. They also have the benefit of working together with their co-workers within the program, so there is a sense of support and encouragement.

The company also benefits from these programs. Healthy, happy employees are more productive employees, as this study indicated. They are less likely to require sick days, and they have more energy and enthusiasm during their work hours. By offering these types of programs, you show your employees you care about them, which fosters trust and loyalty—leading to higher morale and lower turnover.

Furthermore, you’ll save money:

“Well, it turns out that a comprehensive, strategically designed investment in employees’ social, mental, and physical health pays off. [Johnson & Johnson’s] leaders estimate that wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs over the past decade; from 2002 to 2008, the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent.”

In another study involving 185 employees at a single company, 57 percent of the participants who were classified as high-risk for cardiac issues at the beginning of the program were considered low-risk by the end of it. “…medical claim costs had declined by $1,421 per participant, compared with those from the previous year. A control group showed no such improvements. The bottom line: Every dollar invested in the intervention yielded $6 in health care savings.”

Is a Wellness Program Right for Your Company?

First, you need to consider the size of your company and your budget. Not all programs cost a lot of money: you could start a lunchtime yoga class, bring in a massage therapist once a month to offer free or reduced-fee treatments, or give everyone a pedometer and recognize those who achieve the most steps every week. The key is knowing your employees: what do they want and what will work for them? What are their biggest health and wellness concerns? If no one in your office smokes, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to offer a stop-smoking program.

It’s also not enough to simply offer the program: you need to demonstrate enthusiasm for it from the top down. Leaders in the company should participate in the program and encourage others to do the same. Whoever is organizing the program should regularly assess its popularity and effectiveness. Give the program time to take hold: employees need time to change old habits.

If you don’t yet offer some type of wellness program, now’s the time to consider it. As you improve employee wellness, you improve company wellness, too. See how you can best support your employees as they strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle, then back that up with the right health insurance plan. Contact us if you have any questions about insurance and other employee benefits.