aon hewitt logoWellness plans are a popular option for employers trying to control rising health care costs and 2013 is primed to become a year where even more will be expected from such programs. While employee engagement in wellness programs has garnered much attention from employers, they must also focus on using the programs in retention efforts. An effective wellness program creates sustainable lifestyle changes enabled through engrained workplace practices and cultural changes that support healthy behaviors.

“When you think about why safety programs are so successful in organizations, it’s because they’re engrained in the culture,” said Stephanie Pronk, senior vice president at Aon Hewitt. “It’s part of the way they do their work every day, so we need to work at health and wellness in the same way. We need culture changes to support healthy behaviors in the long term.”

More employers are expected to turn some attention to the family members of employees through the use of “family kits” which aim to involve whole families in exercise games and provide healthy recipes and grocery lists. This would help employers affect everyone on their health plans and promote healthy living through sustained healthy living habits. Personal accountability is also expected to factor into wellness decisions as employers seek to create an environment of transparency. The health of employees will become the focus of celebration and recognition with open lines of communication between organization and individuals to convey the impact of employee health on the bottom line.

Many employers are also expected to promote community-wide wellness in order to encourage community participation by employees. By pushing for safe walking paths and improved wellness amenities, employers will influence their communities and receive the benefits of higher work performance thanks to a healthier work force.

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