By Erica Solomon, Human Resources Director, HCIactive
As a wellness company, we know that we must practice what we preach. In our case, that means running a successful employee wellness program, from both a financial and company culture standpoint. As HCIactive’s Director of Human Resources, it’s my responsibility to manage our own wellness program. Of course, I have an advantage: my co-workers work on wellness initiatives every day, so they understand the value of the programs we offer. I don’t have to prove to my employees that wellness programs work, but I do have to make sure our program is interesting, challenging, and beneficial to both the individual employee and the company.
From a financial perspective, the best value of a wellness program is not so much in dollars saved, but in increased efficiency. Because my employees are healthier and more proactive about healthy diet and exercise, I have significantly fewer unplanned absences, on average. My employees take fewer sick days, which means less scrambling to cover for absent co-workers and increased productivity across the workforce. We’re also seeing a decrease in prescriptions for chronic conditions and a decrease in doctors’ visits. It’s important to note the reason for those decreased doctors’ visits, by the way. Not only are members getting sick less, but they’re taking control of their health. They are more knowledgeable and communicative with their medical professionals, leading to more efficient and effective visits. By taking an interest and an active role in their own healthcare, my employees are getting healthier and saving the company money.
The best value of a wellness program is not so much in dollars saved, but in increased efficiency.
Our wellness program is also a vital part of our company culture. While I wouldn’t say that the program alone attracts and retains top talent, it does play into the larger atmosphere of our office. It sets the tone for the type of company and employees we want to foster—and there’s good data to prove that programs like wellness initiatives and relaxed company dress codes create more efficient and engaged employees. Workers who take part in the wellness program and company challenges are showing boosted productivity and energy levels. We offer step challenges, nutrition incentives, and so on through our member portal, and we spice it up (pun intended) with events like a chili cook-off and a soccer team. The goal should be to leverage your wellness program to enhance company culture. While these particular events might not work for every company, maybe there’s an interest in a lunchtime walking group or a healthy cooking class instead. Again, the wellness program is only part of the larger corporate whole, but it helps us create the kind of environment where people want to contribute and feel part of a team.
Implementing such a program seems daunting, but there are some strategies that will help overcome most obstacles. These days, nearly three-quarters of employers offer company-sponsored wellness programs, and even more—about 87%—are committed to improving workplace wellness . There’s a wide disparity in the effectiveness of these programs, however, which leads newcomers to question the value of putting such a plan in place. With the right program and the right mindset, however, the Human Resources (HR) department can increase effectiveness and decrease the time requirement.
One of the biggest obstacles that the HR department faces in implementing an effective wellness program is, of course, the time that it takes to administer it. I’ll agree that a good program does take time and effort to manage. But I think about it this way: if I spend the equivalent of 3 days a month implementing this program, but save 24 hours of unplanned paid time off throughout the company, that’s a win from a productivity standpoint. Saving more than 24 per month of unplanned PTO, which we do, is a win for both efficiency and finance. Absenteeism is costly to a company, so by decreasing the amount of sick days my employees need and increasing the number of deadlines met (a productivity measure), my time investment pays huge dividends.
If a member can access their benefits information and incentives in the same place, it drastically cuts down the amount of time HR has to spend administering the program.
The HR department can—and should—use technology to save time and effort on wellness programs. If you ask me, self-service is the way to go. Offer a member portal so employees and their dependents can manage their own healthcare data and access challenges and resources. If a member can access their benefits information and incentives in the same place, it drastically cuts down the amount of time HR has to spend administering the program. Through our member portal, our employees can take greater control over their own health by knowing their numbers, learning more about preventable conditions, and communicating with health coaches to reach their wellness goals. Best of all, they are able to choose and manage their own benefits selections which previously would have required the assistance of HR staff.
There are significant investments in starting a wellness program, both monetarily and in terms of time commitment. These costs can be combatted by implementing an established self-service program. By using a healthcare technology company that specializes in supporting wellness programs, HR directors have the option to fully customize a program to their specifications, or to let the outsourced company handle programming, incentives, and so on through a pre-set menu. All your members have to do is access it, saving HR the time and trouble of creating a workable program. The larger savings, however, is in the way your employees will react to the program. Lower rates of absenteeism and higher productivity, not to mention health plan savings, leads to a healthier, more engaged work force and a more efficient company.