According to a recent article, up to 90 percent of employers offer employees at least one activity promoting wellness, ranging from printed material to in-house fitness centers and one-on-one counseling.
The National Institutes of Health recently conducted a case study on the employee wellness program at Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin. The initial program consisted of one full-time employee who was available to provide health information and one-on-one consulting and education, who made brochures on health information available, and who coordinated wellness seminars and demonstrations by local vendors. Over time, the wellness program expanded to include multiple offerings, including an on-site fitness center, healthier food options, cash incentives, health newsletters, workshops, dietary counseling, weight loss programs, smoking cessation programs, and a part-time personal fitness trainer.
The wellness program at Capital Metro has shown promising results in improving employee health and reducing costs associated with healthcare and absenteeism. The financial benefits outweigh the annual investment (2.43 ROI). Employees engage in more physical activity, have better knowledge of disease management (diabetes and asthma), have better eating habits, and smoke less than they did before the program was implemented. Employee morale has increased since the program was implemented.
Implementing a successful wellness program can be difficult. You need to identify what you want to see happen and what type of wellness program you will run. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety identifies some steps you should consider when planning your employee wellness program:
Step 1: Get support from senior management.
Step 2: Get buy-in from other influential people.
- Union / worker representatives
- Middle management
- Health and safety professional(s)
- Human resources professional(s)
- Your employee assistance program (EAP) provider
- Medical or occupational health staff
- Thought leaders amongst employees
- Employees displaying healthful habits (e.g., a group of people walking together at lunch)
- Community groups
Invite these people to take part in surveys, round-table meetings, and one-on-one discussions. Ask them to help you identify employee needs, attitudes, and preference toward wellness.
Step 3: Identify the key needs of your employees.
Central to any effective wellness program is collecting baseline data on the health of your employees using a health risk assessment. The results will help you determine the best wellness approach for your workplace.
Step 4: Develop a detailed plan.
- Identify solutions
- Set realistic targets and timelines. Have both short-term and long-term
- Plan how and when the program will be initiated
- Plan how to maintain interest
- Know what resources you have for each step (time, money, people, etc.)
Step 5: Monitor, evaluate, and maintain the program.
You can get more information in the Workplace Health and Wellness Guide, published by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (2008). Copies are available online for $12 CAD.
The organization also offers free resources on its website: http://www.ccohs.ca/healthyworkplaces/employers.
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The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. 2010.