It’s Not the Size That Matters

As summer wraps up and we get into the autumn months, most of us are coming off of a cycle of outdoor activity and recreation that diminishes with the shorter and colder days. The holidays will be upon us before we know it, as well as the requisite excess eating and drinking that accompany the season. But with a few months left in the year, it’s also a good time to take stock of your health and wellness activities, and to consider what’s worked well, what hasn’t worked, and what you might do differently or better next year.

There are numerous national studies documenting the value and benefits of having a formal employee wellness program. Companies that implement wide-ranging programs reap benefits in improved employee satisfaction, productivity and morale. Sick days and absenteeism diminish, and participation in the programs increases.

For large companies, the return on investment is clear. But even for smaller companies, the impact can still be dramatic, especially in terms of personal health and attitude, in teamwork, and in respect for the employer.

Regardless of the size of the company, there are certain aspects of implementing health and wellness efforts that are consistent and proven. Here, for example, are key facilitators common to all organizations that have successfully implemented a health and wellness program:

  • Broad outreach and clear messaging from organizational/company leaders.
  • Making wellness activities convenient and accessible for all employees.
  • Making wellness an organizational priority among senior leaders, middle managers and supervisors.
  • Leveraging existing resources and building relationships with health plans to expand offerings at little to no cost.
  • Approaching wellness with a continuous quality-improvement attitude; and
  • Soliciting regular feedback from employees to improve programs and participation.

There are other constants, as well. For companies that implement and promote the use of online health-assessment tools, researchers find statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements among program participants, especially in exercise frequency, smoking behavior and weight control. Additionally, participation in a wellness program over five years is associated with lower health care costs and decreasing health care use. And outreach to employees works more effectively when a company appoints a wellness champion who can help coordinate activities, approach management, share educational information and solicit candid feedback more easily.

Approximately half of U.S. employers offer wellness promotion initiatives, and larger employers are more likely to have more complex programs. Programs often include wellness screening activities to identify health risks, and interventions to reduce risks and promote healthy lifestyles.

For smaller companies, implementing formal smoking-cessation, nutrition and exercise programs isn’t as easy – but encouraging employees to establish and pursue personal goals, recognizing their efforts and rewarding them for their commitment and success is not difficult. Often, smoking-cessation and exercise programs are available through local chapters of national organizations, or through local fitness and nutrition centers. It just takes support and commitment.

Healthy employees are more productive and happy employees, and statistically, they tend to remain with employers longer when their interest in a healthier lifestyle is encouraged and supported. The most successful small-company wellness programs may start out simply and evolve, but the trick is getting started and building momentum . . .  the rest will follow!

If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!