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Getting Started: Tips to Start a Wellness Program

Wellness can be an important part of your workplace culture. Just follow these steps.

Step 1: Get senior management on your side

Senior management is responsible for thinking about the bottom line, so show them how a wellness program can help make your organization be more efficient and profitable. Wellness programs can help improve:

  • Health care costs
  • Absenteeism
  • Workers’ compensation claims
  • Productivity
  • Morale
  • Loyalty and retention

Step 2: Set up a health improvement committee

When developing, proposing, and rolling out new wellness initiatives, you don’t want to go it alone. A team can help you make sure all your bases are covered.

  • Offer diverse ideas
  • Allow for division of labor
  • Bring in voices from many parts of your organization

The group should represent the organization as a whole. Include a diverse selection of employees who can give you realistic feedback on the initiatives. Remember: A culture of well-being is about more than just physical health; it should include behavioral, social, and financial health as well. That’s why it’s also important to involve people who are good motivators, know your company’s culture, can perform research and communicate well, and are well liked by their fellow employees.

Step 3: Perform a needs assessment

When it comes to choosing your first topics to tackle, many organizations find that employee health assessments offer valuable guidance. This information will establish a baseline to test the effectiveness of wellness programs, and will capture useful data on topics such as:

  • Demographics of your population
  • Health risks, wellness habits, preventive screening rates, and chronic conditions
  • Employees’ interests in specific wellness activities
  • Employees’ readiness to change–which helps you target efforts that will have the most impact
  • Perceptions of your organizational culture and ideas for improving it
  • Productivity, presenteeism, and absenteeism rates
  • Biometric information (i.e., data on cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels, and more)

You may also want to gather medical claims data, turnover, and retention rates, as well as accident/safety records and facility/ environment assessments, to identify sources of risk and stress.

Step 4: Develop an operations plan

  • Articulate what the program will achieve and how it will help employees and their families
  • Establish employee education to get the word out
  • Confirm a budget
  • Select activities relevant to company culture that will address existing wellness needs:
    • Preventive health screenings
    • Group fitness
    • Safety and prevention demonstrations
    • Chronic condition programs
    • Stress relief activities
  • Set “SMART” objectives: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-specific
    • For example: Achieve 35% participation in biometric screenings by [month, year].

Step 5: Offer incentives to boost participation

  • Get managers involved and find out what will best motivate their staff
  • Offer incentives for achieving small steps–not just final goals
  • Offer opportunities to exercise, such as group walking at lunch, or even subsidized fitness club membership
  • Encourage the use of wearables to help monitor activities
  • Many companies offer material incentives such as logo-bearing water bottles and earbuds – but opportunities for flexible scheduling and telecommuting can also be great low-cost motivators
  • Include plenty of healthy food choices in your cafeteria and vending machines
  • Make sure you’re compliant with state and federal laws on wellness programs and incentives

Employers who invest time and energy into establishing a strong wellness program can reap the benefits of a healthier workforce – and getting started is easier than you think. Following these steps today can quickly put you on the path toward better wellness at work, for a stronger, more competitive company tomorrow. Cigna’s tools and resources can help you get there. Let’s get started now.

Download this White Paper [PDF]

Two women discuss how to start a workplace wellness program.

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