When Starting a Wellness Program the first step is Assessing Your Needs
If like most small companies your business’s worksite wellness program budget is small, it’s essential that you are spending what you do have as efficiently as possible. The most common tool for assessing where health programs are most needed is a Health Risk Appraisal (HRA). This type of questionnaire reviews personal lifestyle practices (such as smoking, seat belt use, and exercise) and identifies risk factors. It can help you get an idea of what needs your program should address. An HRA is often available at no extra cost from your insurance company or from an outside vendor at low cost (see this example from the University of Michigan).
Be sure that you are following Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) regulations while conducting an HRA. If you have fewer than 50 employees, for instance, HIPPA regulations prohibit you from receiving an aggregate report of HRA results. You can either turn to an outside vendor to interpret HRA results or get creative.
Another option is to conduct an interest survey, where you list every initiative you are willing to offer as part of your wellness program and have employees rank what they would find most valuable. “A lot of times the biggest need might be that people should stop smoking, but [your employee’s are more] interested in an exercise program,” says Lindsay. “So the first thing we offer is an aerobics class and [the next thing is] a smoking cessation class.”
Although it would be great if every company could install a gym onsite and hire a full-time wellness coach, there are less expensive ways to make a difference in the health of employees. Simple steps that don’t cost a cent, like implementing a no-smoking policy or a walking program, can make a huge difference.
The Partnership for Prevention has outlined three components of proven promotion practices for workplaces, and there are cost-effective, creative ways to implement all of them.
1. Tobacco: If there is one wellness benefit that will save you the most money, helping employees become non-smokers is it.The CDC recommends that insurance providers offer smoking cessation benefits that cover at least four counseling sessions as well as prescription and over-the-counter nicotine replacement medication with no co-pay. Ask your broker to keep these guidelines in mind when you are purchasing insurance.
2. Cancer Screening: Simply reminding employees to get cancer screenings and supplying them with information can be an effective way to improve their health. Post flyers in bathrooms, send e-mails, distribute fact sheets, or make posters.
3. Fitness and Nutrition: Here are some simple things that an employer can do to make healthful choices easier to make:
• Subsidize healthy options in vending machines with junk food options. For instance, charge $1 for a cupcake but only 25 cents for an apple.
• Set up a walking club before or after work.
• Start a pedometer challenge with a goal of 10,000 steps a day.
• Provide a safe place to store bikes in the office.
• Encourage employees to take the stairs.
• Buy healthy food for meetings instead of junk food.
• Host Weight Watchers meetings at work.
Programming decisions won’t mean anything without creating an environment that can back up behavioral changes. “The pitfall would be to make it a flash-in-the-pan kind of program, where you do one activity and it’s limited to one luncheon where you bring someone to talk about [the program] and then you don’t do anything else. IA successful wellness program has to be a continued effort. You have got to make an investment; it’s not going to be just handing out pamphlets. It’s going to be something that is integrated in our business. It’s a way we do business.