Do You Have an Employee Wellness Plan?

Originally posted May 19, 2014 by Bridget Miller on http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com.

Employee wellness plans have been gaining popularity in recent years, and with good reason: they can benefit both employees and employers. 
An employee wellness program is simply a program that intends to promote the health and well-being of employees. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the key is that the program has a goal of improving employee health.

The benefits for employees are fairly obvious:

  • The potential for improved health
  • Support in the form of encouragement, goals, or even team activities
  • A focus on healthier choices
  • Maybe a reduction in cost

But the benefits for employers are sometimes overlooked. This is unfortunate because employers actually stand to benefit a great deal as well. Here are just a few examples:

  • Improved employee health can mean fewer absences for illness and higher employee productivity levels.
  • Investing in employees can improve employee morale. Over time, this can even reduce turnover.
  • Healthier employees often cost less to insure over time.

These benefits are there regardless of company size or industry. Every organization can benefit.

Starting an Employee Wellness Program

Starting an employee wellness program can be quite simple. (Of course, it can be quite involved too, depending on how far the employer wants to go with the program.) Here are some examples of easy ways to get started focusing on employee health:

  • Provide health screenings. Examples include blood pressure or Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings.
  • Provide food fact sheets. Simply having access to more information can allow employees to make healthier choices.
  • Start employee fitness groups. Examples include walking groups or even sport team creation to compete in local leagues.
  • Conduct individual health-risk assessments (i.e., questionnaires that help assess overall health and risk factors at an individual level). These are usually administered by a third party and come with personalized reports on health risk factors.
  • Give away health-related promotional items. Examples include pedometers or water bottles.
  • Remove on-site food that does not promote good health; replace it with healthier options. This can be implemented in many areas, such as vending machines, cafeterias, catering for meetings, break room options, etc.
  • Provide information on the health benefits of quitting smoking.
  • Distribute other wellness-oriented communications, such as health-related newsletters.
  • Conduct training sessions on health or wellness-related topics.
  • Allow longer lunch breaks to give time for exercise.
  • Provide discounts on health insurance or otherwise reduce the cost.

Of course, employee wellness programs can also be implemented on a much broader scale, too. Here are some more in-depth examples:

  • Adding an on-site fitness center or partnering with a nearby fitness center to offer free employee memberships; and
  • Sponsoring employee contests. (Be sure to follow the latest guidelines under the Affordable Care Act when it comes to participation and rewards.)

Be aware that there are some rules governing wellness programs, particularly when a bonus or discount is based on an actual change in health status (e.g., lower blood pressure or cholesterol) as opposed to simply participating in an activity (e.g., a health screening).

No matter what type of employee wellness programs you implement, be sure to have a plan to communicate the program details to employees. Getting employees excited and involved is the first step to gaining the benefits. Focus on the benefits for the employees in all communications and make it easy to participate, even offering incentives where appropriate.


Exercise Benefits Low-income Americans Most

BY KATHRYN MAYER
Source: benefitspro.com

 

Here’s at least one advantage to not having a hefty salary: Low-income Americans experience a bigger emotional payoff for exercising and eating well.

According to The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, low income people report a bigger emotional boost from frequent exercise and good eating habits than richer people do.

The Emotional Health Index score is based on Americans' self-reports of positive and negative daily emotions, as well as self-reported clinical diagnoses of depression. Findings are based on 180,299 interviews with American adults conducted between Jan. 2 and July 8.

Low-income adults who exercise three or more days per week are about seven percentage points more likely than their counterparts who exercise less than that to report experiencing happiness “a lot of the day yesterday.” Those Americans experience a bigger exercise bonus than do those with higher incomes in terms of daily smiling and laughter, enjoyment and happiness. They're also less likely to experience depression than higher income adults who exercise.

U.S. adults at all income brackets who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week reported widespread emotional health benefits, the report notes. But it is particularly evident in those earning less than $36,000 per year.