Genevieve Douglas | Bloomberg BNA Human Resources Report
Employee wellness programs don’t have to be complex to be effective, and they are proven to help the company bottom line, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“I think that the business case for wellness programs has been settled. If you look back five years ago there was an argument about whether there was a [return on investment] for these endeavors. Now the studies overwhelmingly show that if the program is done right, you will see a return on your bottom line,” Randy Johnson, senior vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits for the chamber, told Bloomberg BNA April 11. However, much conjecture and misunderstanding continue over how well-designed workplace wellness programs operate, he said.
According to the report, released April 7, five lifestyle behaviors (physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking, alcohol use and non-adherence to medications) and five chronic medical conditions (diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, mental illness and cancer) drive 75 percent of all deaths worldwide. “Even though people usually know what they should do to improve their health, this is easier said than done,” the report said. “Embedding behavior change theories, processes, and techniques into wellness programs and interventions to reach people in ‘all stages of change’ is critical to engaging individuals.”
Today’s reality is that health is a performance driver—for employers and employees, the report said. Employers will reap rewards from programs that engage employees, offer multiple strategies that suit the unique needs of employee populations, and measure the programs’ successes or failures, the report said.
An Expanded Wellness Strategy
The chamber report provides a great baseline to start the discussion around wellness, but employers with resources should expand their wellness programs to make them even more effective, Rachel Levine, director of wellness strategies for Health Advocate, told Bloomberg BNA April 12.
For example, chronic care management is often a forgotten piece of a wellness strategy, but it should be part of an integrated wellness approach, Levine said. Employers should look at claims data to identify gaps in care for chronic care management, because this identifies the employer’s health risk as an organization and helps employees manage their individual health, she said.
“It’s also important to note that wellness is not one size fits all,” Levine, who was not involved with the chamber report, said. Companies have different types of employee populations and cultures, and they need a wellness strategy that best supports these unique goals.
Wellness programs should be flexible and diverse, especially when it comes to communicating with employees about participating in the program, whether it’s via telephone or online, Levine said.
Reproduced with permission from Human Resources Report, 34 HRR 405 (Apr. 18, 2016). Copyright 2016 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033)