There are many ways that employers can support the health of their employees; wellness programs are certainly one of them. But many employers are unclear about the details about wellness benefits and programs and what they can do for their organization.
Wellness refers to the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as a result of deliberate effort. As an employer, you can help your team (both physically and mentally) by developing a wellness culture within your organization.
The best way to do this is to create a wellness plan for your organization. Typically, wellness plans aim to help employees:
- Increase physical activity
- Improve nutrition
- Quit smoking
- Decrease stress
There can also be a focus on disease prevention and management. The scope of wellness is so broad that there are many different areas on which a company may focus. The ultimate goal is to elevate the physical and mental health of employees.
Wellness in Practice
Because there are so many different ways to incorporate wellness concepts into organizational culture, it’s important to have a plan. Choose some goals for the wellness program and then build your plan based on elements that support those goals.
For example, if your goal is to help employees be more physically active then start by brainstorming ways you can support this. For this goal, some of the ways you could support it may be:
- Create a lunchtime walking club
- Give employees pedometers and create an office step challenge
- Subsidize gym memberships
- Provide a wellness spending account
- Provide access to online tools to support physical fitness (e.g Lifeworks Lift)
This is just one example of one goal, but there are many other wellness activities or services you can use to support employees on their journey. Some other common wellness ideas include:
- Regular health assessments and screening, to provide a baseline and then measure results
- Free fruit and veggies in the workplace to promote healthy eating
- Nutrition counselling
- Online platforms for logging nutrition and sleep
- Onsite yoga classes
- Lunch and learns on wellness topics
- Workplace mini-challenges
- Smoking cessation programs
- Stress management seminars
When implementing a wellness program, it’s important to plan ahead. Create a wellness calendar and plan events or activities throughout the year, so wellness becomes a culture, not a one-time-only event. Keep wellness at the forefront of employees’ minds through newsletters, posters and intranets. Consider offering prizes for wellness challenges and look for online tools or platforms for employees to engage with to improve their wellness.
Good benefits strategy paired with wellness
Employee benefits are a good partner to a wellness program. In fact, wellness benefits can be incorporated into your general employee benefit plan. This may mean providing employees with a wellness spending account where they can be reimbursed for eligible wellness-related expenses. Some eligible expenses may include things like Zumba classes or running shoes.
In many ways, a wellness program can act as preventative medicine for employee benefit claims.
A wellness culture gives back
A wellness culture can have a positive effect on your financials as well as the intangibles such as employee satisfaction. Helping employees improve their physical and mental health will lead to fewer disability claims and lower prescription drug costs.
For example, some employees may see improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol as a result of becoming more active. Or an overweight individual who becomes more active and loses weight may avoid developing a health condition like diabetes. These are examples where prescription drugs (and associated costs) could be avoided. Other benefits to a healthier lifestyle include a reduction in disability claims.
Wellness also helps the mind, as well as the body. Exercise is known to be a great stress reliever. The same goes with weight loss – helping an employee achieve a weight loss goal can have a positive impact on that person’s mental wellbeing.
It’s also been shown that healthier employees have fewer absences and higher productivity. These are just a few of the ways that a wellness culture gives back.
Some unlikely influencers on well-being
Some employee health benefits are also important influencers on well-being, which can support a wellness culture. One example is virtual healthcare. GroupHEALTH partners with Akira to provide access to virtual healthcare. Virtual healthcare supports the wellbeing of employees because it provides easy access to healthcare professionals. This means employees are more likely to seek out healthcare, which can prevent issues from escalating. It also helps with work-life balance because it means employees don’t have to waste time driving to or from a doctor’s appointment.
Another example is preventative dental services (such as teeth cleaning). Oral health is known as a window into the body’s overall health. The mouth is an entry point to the digestive and respiratory tract; ensuring good oral hygiene can prevent illness. Regular checkups can also help identify health issues in the early stages.
Wellness in a pandemic world
Living life during a pandemic can have a negative effect on both physical and mental health. It’s a stressful time when many of us are feeling disconnected from our usual routines and support. Now more than ever, wellness culture and wellness benefits can be something positive for employees to focus on. It can help employees find alternative ways to get healthy and it can reinforce to employees that you really do care about their health and wellbeing.
Good Advice is Key
Does your current employee benefit plan support your wellness goals? Does your provider have wellness partners and support for your company? Review your options with one of our licensed advisors on the phone or in-person or contact us for a comparison quote.
Whether you’re looking for extended health and dental coverage, disability coverage, or life and critical illness coverage, GroupHEALTH has affordable benefits packages that work as hard as you do.