December 19, 2017

Do You Have What It Takes to Be One of America’s Healthiest Employers?

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Healthy people feel better. People who feel better are more productive at work.

When it comes down to it, this is why many top companies give their employees opportunities to participate in wellness programs. They want workers who take less sick days and have more energy to dedicate to their jobs.

In fact, the very promise of more productive workers is enough for most companies, as 76 percent of companies with wellness initiatives don’t measure the return on investment (ROI), according to the 2017 “State of Corporate Wellness” report from Fitbit Health Solutions.

But that doesn’t mean the ROI is immeasurable.

The ROI of Wellness

Employers invest in wellness programs for a variety of reasons, from improving engagement to lowering healthcare costs. Fitbit’s report found that employees who exercised more than 75 minutes each week missed 4.1 fewer days of work each year, and that ‘inadequate physical activity’ was associated with 11.1 percent of total healthcare expenditures.

“So, there are real benefits to investing in wellness,” says Adam Pellegrini, general manager of Fitbit Health Solutions.

On a monetary level, Pellegrini points out that roughly 12 percent of employers saw a $2-3 return on every dollar spent, and almost 3 percent saw an ROI of $5-7.23.

If you’re interested in tracking your wellness initiative’s ROI, Pellegrini suggests starting by identifying the kinds of metrics that are relevant to your initiative’s desired outcome.

“For example, if you are creating a program to boost employee satisfaction, you might consider a survey of employees before and after the program,” Pellegrini says. “If you’re looking to create a program aimed at improving health outcomes, you may want to consider including biometric screenings as part of your program. Each wellness program is unique, and so are the metrics that determine success.”

Encouraging Employees to Participate

We’ve all been there, passively wishing to drop a few pounds or lower our blood pressure but not doing much about it. We’re too busy, or healthy food is too expensive, or any one of a million other reasons. Most employees want to be healthier; they just need a nudge in the right direction.

If participation in your wellness initiative is a hassle or doesn’t seem worth it, few employees will partake.

“In our experience, you need to give employees tools that they already want to use … to attract engagement in wellness programs,” says Pellegrini. “Our ‘State of Corporate Wellness’ report also found that companies that are doing it right are using clear communication and making the program convenient.”

And, of course, there’s always money. When aligned with the program goals, financial incentives can significantly boost engagement rates. Fitbit’s report found that 55 percent of “America’s Healthiest Employers” (more on that in a minute) have successfully used incentives in this way.

Be One of America’s Healthiest Employers

Fitbit Health Solutions compiles an annual list of America’s Healthiest Employers. For companies that hope to operate wellness programs at such a high level, Fitbit offers the following tips:

  1. Use metrics to measure program performance.
  2. Focus on controllable and/or preventable health conditions, such as asthma, depression, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
  3. Emphasize physical activity with the goal of getting participants to exercise 75+ minutes per week.
  4. Recruit managers to serve as role models in order to increase employee participation.
  5. Hyper-personalize wellness program activities to better connect employees with their wellness goals.
  6. Deliver consistent communication to ensure every employee is aware of the company’s wellness offerings.
  7. Encourage teamwork through sports, intradepartmental challenges, and other programs.
  8. Use financial incentives, such as insurance premium reductions.
  9. Incorporate wearable technology to monitor participant progress and the program’s effectiveness. (35 percent of America’s Healthiest Employers have used wearables in their wellness programs.)
  10. Aim for small, measurable improvements that can be incorporated into everyday routines.

Read more in Wellness Programs

Jason McDowell holds a BS in English from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. By day, he works as a mild-mannered freelance writer and business journalist. By night, he spends time with his wife and dogs, writes novels and short stories, and tries in vain to catch up on all of those superhero television shows.