In a world where national health care costs have increased about 10% year over year, companies are grasping for ways to reduce healthcare costs while maintaining a productive and engaged workforce. Many have attempted to provide employee wellness programs, but struggle to gain participation numbers high enough to make an impact. The facts are that costs continue to climb and people continue to struggle in their desire to change behaviors that would improve their lives, reduce health care expense AND reduce sick days. So, what to do about it?
Employee Wellness Programs
While employee wellness programs are essential to help drive down health costs, improve employee engagement and reduce unplanned days off, it is critical to recognize that wellness will not thrive in isolation. It must exist within and around a genuine “culture of wellness” supported by an organization’s senior leadership and with tools and services that will wrap the participant with healthy living support, creating a crucial wellness ecosystem. Some of the time proven elements of this ecosystem should include:
- Behavior-based plans such as primary care clinics, incentives programs, premium differentials, etc.
- Wellness programs including access to a gym, gym discounts, weight management, smoking cessation classes, fitness challenges and more.
- Decision support tools that offer access to nutritionists, a café with nutritional facts or weight and nutrition tools
- Support services such as a 24/7 nurse line or disease education.
A wellness ecosystem helps manage the delivery of resources in ways that empower employees to both adopt AND sustain healthful lifestyle habits. The key differentiator from most wellness program models is that a genuine wellness ecosystem can leverage partnerships with other community stakeholders so employees and their dependents are continuously exposed to opportunities to make healthy choices; and behavioral nudges are pervasively embedded to prompt and reinforce those choices
In today’s world, organizations must take some action. If more employers decided to implement wellness program ecosystems, we could certainly make an impact on the national healthcare cost trend, as well as develop a strategic advantage over our competitors. Our future as a prosperous and productive society is largely dependent upon organizations to seek and try new and better ways to improve the health and well-being of workers and their families.
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