Tag Archives: employee wellness

The Future of Corporate Wellness – Where Will We Go From Here?
7th August 2017 by Site Admin in General

I am proud to say that I have been involved in corporate wellness since the mid-1980s. Helping employees live healthier and happier lives, as well as supporting employers with best-in-class tools to improve their cultures, have been my passion and purpose. I have witnessed and worked on corporate wellness since the time when physical health was the most important aspect of workers’ health. I cannot say I have worked with wellness since its inception, though. Corporate wellness has been around longer than many people think. To predict the future of wellness, we must understand its past.

Writings about the effects of work exposure on workers and how to improve workers’ health and well-being can be found as early as the 1700s1. Later, the industrial revolution brought many health issues to workers such as working 14 to 16 hours a day, low wages, and very poor working conditions2. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health in the 1940s as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” opened our eyes to the concept of health and wellness as a more complex one3. In addition, the work of Halbert Dunn in 1959 helped the word “wellness” circulate more widely in the public health field, but it was the CBS 60 Minutes program with Dan Rather in 1979 titled, “Wellness, there’s a word you don’t hear every day,” that created curiosity about what corporate wellness was at that time – emphasis on physical health4. Corporate wellness has evolved since then and many studies have been published leading to a wealth of knowledge on best practices, return on investment (ROI), value of investment, risk reduction, health improvement, and more. The March 2017 edition of Health Affairs was dedicated exclusively on the relationship of work and health, and health and work highlighting important recent studies on wellness. Wellness has moved from physical health to thriving in other dimensions such as emotional, financial, spiritual, social, and intellectual health. In addition, many theories on behavior change and behavior economics have been adopted in wellness programs and its incentive designs. Wellness has changed from a “nice to have” to a “must have” benefit, but it must be done right and implemented consistently in order to provide positive results that align with your company’s goals.

I don’t have a crystal ball or special powers, but I believe the future of wellness lies in the following:

Millennials in the workforce will demand more sophisticated technology.

The traditional health risk assessment will be replaced by a more holistic kind – check out the True Vitality Test from The Blue Zones. (The UBA Health Plan Survey finds that although 72.5 percent of wellness programs include health risk assessments, their use has been declining, dropping 10.5 percent in three years.)

Wellness will be part of all successful companies’ business objectives – the Chief Wellness & Well-being Officer’s ultimate goal will be to build a culture of health, self-responsibility, and emotional balance. Wellness will be an important piece of this. For great examples of companies ahead of our time, check out Dr. Ron Goetzel’s work at the Institute of Health and Productivity Studies at John Hopkins School of Public Health.

Non-traditional workplace environments will replace the health-damaging sitting and sedentary work environment of today.

Wellness will be more integrated with benefits in general, but more specifically with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) as a way to help employees fund them.
ROI will no longer be the focus, and instead it will be part of a long-term business strategy.

Wellness will have a wider impact overall where employees will thrive in the workplace and bring their health improvement skills to their families and communities.

We now know how to deliver wellness that positively affects cultures and population health. We don’t need any additional studies. All we need are brave and open-minded companies to embark on the journey of optimal wellness and well-being. This journey is full of trials and errors, but also full of self-discovery and growth that can build very profitable companies filled with employees who truly engage at work and thrive every day. Who is with me in this journey?

Download our free (no form!) special report, “2016 Trends in Employer Wellness Programs,” for more information on wellness components trending among employers, especially the increase in telephonic coaching and the decrease in the use of health risk assessments.

For complete health plan design and cost trends by industry, region and group size, download UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary.

For comprehensive information on designing wellness programs that create lasting change, download UBA’s whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization.”

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way.

©Copyright 2017 by Valeria S. Tivnan at EBS, a UBA Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Well-Being Strategies for a Diverse Workforce, Building Value at an Individual Level
25th July 2017 by Site Admin in General

Your organization has 312 employees, which means you have 312 different needs for well-being support. Well-being strategies should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Developing a set of flexible and responsive well-being strategies that meet changing individual needs throughout an employee’s tenure is a critical way to both attract and retain talent. A few case studies to illustrate:

Jordan is serving in an entry-level position. This single, gender fluid, 20-something is eager to learn and grow. In conversations with HR, Jordan has also indicated a high level of overall stress due to a burdensome education loan and is barely able to make loan payments on top of rent and other monthly expenses. Jordan’s outlook on saving for retirement is grim. At the same time, they are an active member of the local young professional network and keeps fit while playing in a competitive Ultimate league.

Anvi has been in an executive leadership role with the organization for seven years. She is a gifted and valued trailblazer who keeps the organization nimble in a climate of constant change. Despite spending long hours at work, her colleagues know little about Anvi’s family and personal life, as she is rather private. From time to time though, Anvi demonstrates affection for her team by sharing artfully created meals that illustrate her diverse cooking skills and interests.

Mark has been a dedicated, career-long, mid-level employee in accounting. Although lately he shows declining interest in his once-beloved work. Colleagues have noticed in Mark a new tendency to decline offers to share lunch or coffee breaks. Last year, Mark led the company volunteerism committee, but has recused himself from this duty, citing a conflict of interest with his role as a finance officer for a local non-profit organization.

Each of these individuals show up to the workplace with a unique set of values, talents, beliefs, interests, and resources. At the same time, all employees benefit from a workplace culture that attends to each person’s sense of purpose, plus physical, social, financial and community well-being. It can be a daunting challenge to meet such diverse needs and interests, which is why we must build programs and policies with employees, listening to what they want and seeking out ways to efficiently design a system of supports. The first step to any thoughtful program is to conduct a needs assessment. Turn up the volume on your curiosity and lead with the question: What do employees want? Consider gathering responses by survey, current HR data sources, and focus groups. Be sure to gather demographic information that will help segment the findings. The results may confirm your beliefs about employee wishes or reveal interesting surprises, as noted in this example.

In a 2015 survey of 1,647 folks across 11 diverse organizations, the American Institute of Preventative Medicine found the following:

  • Incentive strategies: Almost unanimously, employees favored reduced health insurance premium (34 percent) and cash (25 percent) as incentives to get healthier. However, 53 percent of those age 70 and older noted they do not need an incentive to be healthier.
  • Well-being topics of interest: Nutrition (78 percent) and physical activity (77 percent) topics were of highest interest by those age 18 to 69. These same age groups also favored stress management topics more than colleagues age 70 and older. Moderate interest in depression was common among all age groups, and all age groups showed the least interest in tobacco cessation. Compared with colleagues of older age groups, the youngest cohort (18 to 24) indicated high interest in sleep enhancement.
  • Program offerings: All age groups favored health risk assessments (26 percent) and health challenges (25 percent) over other well-being program offerings. Furthermore, older groups (50 to 69 and 70 and older) prefer in-person educational seminars, and younger employees (18 to 24) were more likely to engage in weight loss programs.
  • Fitness devices: The oldest individuals were more likely than all younger individuals to report owning a personal fitness tracking device such as a Fitbit or pedometer, 40 percent age 70 and older, 37 percent age 50 to 69, 31 percent age 33 to 49, 29 percent age 25 to 32, and 17 percent age 18 to 24.

A small-scale needs and interest study like this can challenge our biases about certain groups within our employee population and reveal key details about the value employees hold for well-being programs. Results should inform design of a well-being strategy that accurately and cost-effectively meets a range of needs in the workplace. After all, “research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with purpose,” said Zora Neale Hurston. The pursuit of growing a cost-effective culture of well-being and individual value for programmatic supports will be more beneficial to organizational health than a hard measure of return on investment.

©Copyright 2017 by Lindsay Simpson, Organizational Wellness Lead, The Richards Group, a UBA Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Well-Being Strategies for a Diverse Workforce, Building Value at an Individual Level
12th June 2017 by Site Admin in Healthcare Reform, General

Your organization has 312 employees, which means you have 312 different needs for well-being support. Well-being strategies should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Developing a set of flexible and responsive well-being strategies that meet changing individual needs throughout an employee’s tenure is a critical way to both attract and retain talent. A few case studies to illustrate:

Jordan is serving in an entry-level position. This single, gender fluid, 20-something is eager to learn and grow. In conversations with HR, Jordan has also indicated a high level of overall stress due to a burdensome education loan and is barely able to make loan payments on top of rent and other monthly expenses. Jordan’s outlook on saving for retirement is grim. At the same time, they are an active member of the local young professional network and keeps fit while playing in a competitive Ultimate league.

Anvi has been in an executive leadership role with the organization for seven years. She is a gifted and valued trailblazer who keeps the organization nimble in a climate of constant change. Despite spending long hours at work, her colleagues know little about Anvi’s family and personal life, as she is rather private. From time to time though, Anvi demonstrates affection for her team by sharing artfully created meals that illustrate her diverse cooking skills and interests.

Mark has been a dedicated, career-long, mid-level employee in accounting. Although lately he shows declining interest in his once-beloved work. Colleagues have noticed in Mark a new tendency to decline offers to share lunch or coffee breaks. Last year, Mark led the company volunteerism committee, but has recused himself from this duty, citing a conflict of interest with his role as a finance officer for a local non-profit organization.

Each of these individuals show up to the workplace with a unique set of values, talents, beliefs, interests, and resources. At the same time, all employees benefit from a workplace culture that attends to each person’s sense of purpose, plus physical, social, financial and community well-being. It can be a daunting challenge to meet such diverse needs and interests, which is why we must build programs and policies with employees, listening to what they want and seeking out ways to efficiently design a system of supports. The first step to any thoughtful program is to conduct a needs assessment. Turn up the volume on your curiosity and lead with the question: What do employees want? Consider gathering responses by survey, current HR data sources, and focus groups. Be sure to gather demographic information that will help segment the findings. The results may confirm your beliefs about employee wishes or reveal interesting surprises, as noted in this example.

In a 2015 survey of 1,647 folks across 11 diverse organizations, the American Institute of Preventative Medicine found the following:

Incentive strategies: Almost unanimously, employees favored reduced health insurance premium (34 percent) and cash (25 percent) as incentives to get healthier. However, 53 percent of those age 70 and older noted they do not need an incentive to be healthier.

Well-being topics of interest: Nutrition (78 percent) and physical activity (77 percent) topics were of highest interest by those age 18 to 69. These same age groups also favored stress management topics more than colleagues age 70 and older. Moderate interest in depression was common among all age groups, and all age groups showed the least interest in tobacco cessation. Compared with colleagues of older age groups, the youngest cohort (18 to 24) indicated high interest in sleep enhancement.

Program offerings: All age groups favored health risk assessments (26 percent) and health challenges (25 percent) over other well-being program offerings. Furthermore, older groups (50 to 69 and 70 and older) prefer in-person educational seminars, and younger employees (18 to 24) were more likely to engage in weight loss programs.

Fitness devices: The oldest individuals were more likely than all younger individuals to report owning a personal fitness tracking device such as a Fitbit or pedometer, 40 percent age 70 and older, 37 percent age 50 to 69, 31 percent age 33 to 49, 29 percent age 25 to 32, and 17 percent age 18 to 24.

A small-scale needs and interest study like this can challenge our biases about certain groups within our employee population and reveal key details about the value employees hold for well-being programs. Results should inform design of a well-being strategy that accurately and cost-effectively meets a range of needs in the workplace. After all, “research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with purpose,” said Zora Neale Hurston. The pursuit of growing a cost-effective culture of well-being and individual value for programmatic supports will be more beneficial to organizational health than a hard measure of return on investment.

©Copyright 2017 by Lindsay Simpson at The Richards Group, a UBA Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Factor Emerging Trends, Generational Needs Into Wellness Program
23rd May 2017 by Site Admin in News, Healthcare Reform, General

Your wellness program seems to have it all – biometric screenings, lunch and learns, and weight loss challenges. So, why do you struggle with engagement, or to see any real results? While traditional wellness components are still a large part of plans today, emerging trends, coupled with generational differences, make for challenges when designing an impactful program.

As wellness programs begin to be viewed as a part of the traditional benefits package, the key differentiator is creating a culture and environment that supports overall health and well-being. Visible engagement and support from front-line and senior leadership drives culture change. By prioritizing health through consistent communication, resource allocation, personnel delegation, and role modeling/personal health promotion practices, employers gain the trust of their employees and develop an environment situated around wellness. When employees recognize the importance of wellness in the overall company strategy and culture, and feel supported in their personal goals, healthy working environments begin to develop, resulting in healthier employees.

Looking beyond traditional wellness topics and offering programs that meet the goals of your employees also leads to higher engagement. The American Heart Association CEO Roundtable Employee Health Survey 2016 showed improving financial health, getting more sleep, and reducing stress levels are key focus areas for employees as part of overall wellness. More so, employees see the benefits of unplugging and mentoring, two new topics  in the area of overall well-being. While most employers feel their employees are over surveyed, completing an employee needs or preference survey will ensure your programs align with your employees’ health and wellness goals – ultimately leading to better engagement.

Wellness programs are not immune to generational differences, like most other facets of business. While millennials are most likely to participate and report that programs had an overall impact, they prefer the use of apps and trackers along with social strategies and team challenges. Convenience and senior level support are also important within this group. Generation X and baby boomers show more skepticism toward wellness programs, but are more likely to participate when the programs align with their personal goals. Their overall top health goal is weight loss. Ultimately, addressing the specific needs of your member population and providing wellness through various modalities will result in the greatest reward of investment.

Evaluation and data are the lynchpins that hold a successful program together. Consistent evaluation of the effectiveness of programs to increase participation, satisfaction, physical activity, and productivity – all while reducing risk factors – allow us to know if our programs are hitting the mark and allow for additional tailoring as needed.

Additional Resources:

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way.

©Copyright 2017 by Jennifer Jones at Compliancedashboard, a UBA Certified Solution. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Identify and Evaluate the Impact of Your Wellness Program
5th January 2017 by Site Admin in News, Healthcare Reform, General

Measuring program value, or return on investment, is critical and imperative in managing a healthy wellness program. Further, clearly identifying and objectively evaluating the impact helps keep the vendor focused on what is critical for the employer. If these programs are not having the impact intended, then the cost of those services is only adding to medical spending waste.more

When adding wellness services to any employer benefits package, it is imperative to clearly identify the intended impact and outcome. Outcomes fall into three general categories:

  1. Employee satisfaction with the employer, which adds to recruitment and retention
  2. Reducing biometric risk and improving the health of the population
  3. Reducing medical spending

Employee Satisfaction

In the book, Shared Values, Shared Results by Dee W. Eddington, Ph.D., and Jennifer S. Pitts, Ph.D., the value of employees appreciating the benefits an employer offers is clearly outlined as a win-win strategy. If an employer’s intent in providing wellness services is to improve the support for its employees, then measuring the satisfaction related to those outcomes is critical. Employee surveys are typically the best approach to gather outcomes related to these intended programs. Some key questions to ask may include:

  • Is working at this organization beneficial for my health? (“Strongly Agree” to “Disagree” responses)
  • Do I trust that my organization cares about me? (“Strongly Agree” to “Disagree” responses)
  • Which of the following wellness program initiatives do you find to be valuable? (list all programs offered)

Collecting employee, or spouse, feedback on these programs will provide insight to allow an employer/ consultant to know if programs are appreciated, or if modifications are required in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

Reducing Biometric Risk and Controlling Disease

If the intent of a wellness program is to help improve the health of individuals so that future medical spending will be reduced, then it is critical to determine if the program is engaging the correct members and then measure the impact on their risk. At Vital Incite, we utilize Johns Hopkins’ risk indexing along with biometric risk migration to provide feedback to vendors and employers of the impact of their programs. Some suggested goals may include:

  • Engaging 80 percent of persons with high risk biometrics
  • Reduction in weight of persons overweight or obese by greater than 5 percent in 30 percent of the engaged population
  • Of diabetics with an A1c greater than 7 percent, 80 percent will reduce their A1c by 1 percent in one year
  • Of persons with blood pressure in the high-risk range, 40 percent will have achieved controlled blood pressure without adding medications in one year
  • Of persons who take fewer than 10,000 steps per day, 70 percent will increase their average step count by 20 percent or more

These goals need to be very specific and targeted to address the exact needs of your population, measuring what is most likely to have an impact on a person’s long-term health. This provides specific direction for your wellness providers, but allows an employer/consultant to monitor the impact throughout the year to continue to redirect communication and services to help provide the best outcomes.

The first step in any program is to engage the intended audience. UBA’s Health Plan Survey finds that 54.6 percent of employers with wellness programs use components such as on-site or telephone coaching for high-risk employees, an increase of 7.5 percent from last year. Once you target the intended audience, engagement of those at risk is critical. Monitoring this subset of data can make sure the vendor resources are directed appropriately and, many times, identify areas where the employer may be able to help.

wellness measurement tools

Of course, engagement is only the first step and the intended outcome is to reduce risk or slow down the progression of risk increasing, that is really the final outcome desired. The following illustration allows employers and the vendor solution to monitor the true impact of the program by reviewing the risk control, or improvement based on program participation.

wellness measurement tools

Reducing Medical Spending

Although many employers are interested in helping their employees become healthier, the reality is these efforts have to help reduce medical costs or increase productivity so these efforts are sustainable. Since, to date, few employers have data on productivity, the analysis then is focused on reducing medical spending. The correct analysis depends on the size of your population and the targeted audience, but a general analysis to determine if those engaged are costing less than persons who have similar risk on your plan would look something like the analysis below.

wellness measurement tools

If your program is targeted specifically on a disease state, then the impact on the cost to care for that disease state may be more appropriate. In the example below, the employer instituted a program to help asthmatics, and therefore, the analysis is related to the total cost to care for asthma comparing the year prior to the program to the year of the program. In this analysis, the impact is very clear.

wellness measurement tools

The employer anticipated first year savings due to high emergency room (ER) utilization for persons with asthma and the report proved that along with ER utilization declining, the total cost of care for asthma significantly declined.

Summary

In summary, having a clear understanding of the expectation and desired outcomes and monitoring that impact throughout the year, we believe, drives better outcomes. When we first started analyzing outcomes of programs, the impact of many programs were far less impressive than vendor reports would allow us to believe. That false sense of security is not because they were trying to falsify information, but the reports did not provide enough detail to fully illustrate the impact. Most vendor partners don’t have access to all of the data to provide a full analysis and others will only show what makes them look good. But, if you identify the impact you need in order to achieve success, all parties involved focus on that priority and continually work to improve that impact. We believe that wellness programs can have an impact on a population culture, health and cost of care if appropriately managed.

Download our free (no form!) special report, “2016 Trends in Employer Wellness Programs,” for more information on wellness components trending among employers, especially the increase in telephonic coaching and the decrease in the use of health risk assessments.

For complete health plan design and cost trends by industry, region and group size, download UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary.

For comprehensive information on designing wellness programs that create lasting change, download UBA’s whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way.

©Copyright 2017 by Mary Delaney at Vital Incite, A UBA Partner-Provided Solution. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

VOI vs. ROI: A Business Case for Wellness
6th December 2016 by Site Admin in News, Healthcare Reform, General

VolkBell began the exploration into health and wellness about eight years ago. It was something our partners would say, “Just made sense.” At the time, health care costs were skyrocketing across the nation, particularly in our home state of Colorado, and the nation’s obesity rates were at an all-time high. In our research, we observed a basic principle: A population making healthier lifestyle choices equals lower lifestyle-related medical claims, which equals an overall reduction to the nation’s health care expenditure.

Our partners saw an opportunity to add value by promoting this principle; educating our clients and prospects using a wealth of communication tools we had available. Over the next 18 months, we obtained certifications in wellness coaching, wellness program management, fitness, and nutrition.

We began evolving our education campaigns for clients by sharing community resources, conducting needs and interest surveys, serving on client committees, coordinating health fairs, screenings and fitness challenges, and more.

The Value of Investment

We began to see the “value” in what we were providing our clients and prospects, but we also knew that in order to be good role models of health, we too needed to “walk the talk” and roll out our own employee wellness program.

We looked to our employees to tell us what they wanted in a program, and we were not sure, at the time, exactly what that would look like. “Stayin’ Alive” was branded in 2012 and our committee created a wellness mission statement “…to foster a culture of well-being through regular practice of healthful behaviors, awareness, role modeling, and camaraderie amongst ourselves and the community.”

With a focus on education, prevention, and early detection programs, our wellness program strives to provide the knowledge and tools for our employees and their families to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Our committee is comprised of representatives across departments and locations. These champions share the load of our program, chairing at least one activity each year. They are an integral part in the planning process and they motivate others throughout the year, truly taking “ownership” in the program.

Today, our program encourages teamwork, fosters relationships, and creates healthy competition. Employees support one another more than ever before! Whatever the activity, there is most likely another co-worker to do it with. Employees engage with one another across departments, locations, and with their families sharing what they have learned. Our program has become an extension of the benefits we provide to our employees because it is packed with tools and resources to encourage and support their individual paths.

A benefits consultant from our offices said, “Our program has brought the VolkBell team together, fostering greater teamwork and camaraderie. Employees realize that VB has their best interests in mind and wants to make sure they are given opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle. The program is a piece that makes people want to work at VolkBell.”

Since its inception, our program has earned local and national awards, including having VolkBell being voted one of the best small employers to work for in 2015.

A few highlights of our adventures include: spirit days, bike rides, and runs. Our employees have helped in harvesting projects and spend considerable time volunteering across the community.

One of the greatest rewards is the testimonial from a 16-year VolkBell employee.

“…Our program has given me the tools and education to make reasonable lifestyle changes one small step at a time. It encourages me to constantly look for ways to improve my health, both physically and mentally, and that is exactly what I’ve done…”

The Impact

Over the past four years, VolkBell has collected data that has shown the value of investment that Stayin’ Alive has provided to employees.

employee wellness consultants

The number of minutes employees are exercising have gone up from 81.52 minutes a week (2.6 days a week) in year one, to 101.22 minutes a week (3.5 days a week) in year four.

employee wellness consultants

Depression, on average, has also gone down in the last four years. In year one, employees stated feeling depressed two times in the past three months to feeling depressed 1.5 times in the past three months in year four.

employee wellness consultants

Productivity has gone up from 2.92/10 in year one to 6.6/10 in year four. There have also been fewer days absent from work as the program has progressed. Productivity and absenteeism are important to note because even though they are nearly impossible to track, the fact that employees are reporting such significant increases in productivity and reductions in absenteeism is notable.

Client Retention and Growth Impacts

Following the implementation of our own program and having our own internal experiences, we were able to build more education, tracking programs, measurable data, and were able to provide an opportunity to create real behavior changes with clients.

We wanted to help employers tackle the same common problems we were facing and help them avoid the pitfalls in program design and execution. There was a need to align these wellness programs with benefit plans and become more of a consultant and less of a coordinator.

Our consulting approach is not to just “hand a client over.” We stay with them every step of the way.

Wellness is not always at the “top” of a client’s or prospect’s list of priorities when it comes to benefits, and they may not always utilize this service, but offering wellness consulting gives an advantage to a consultant when “closing the deal.”

There is an advantage in retention as our clients and prospects are aware we have a program and value the importance enough to ”walk the talk” with our own program. Clients want to know what we have done, who we have worked with, what has been successful, and what has not. It is the best reference for our clients.

Wellness aids us in driving outcomes and assisting clients and their employees and families achieve their own personal health goals and creating changes that can be of value to the overall health care system.

When I asked one of our partners what he has learned along the way since the inception of the program he said, “I have learned that wellness programs bring benefits that I did not anticipate, namely teamwork, healthy competition, and employees feeling that their employer really cares about them.”

The Secrets Behind a Successful Program

If asked what we saw as some of our “best kept secrets behind the success of our program,” there would be four:

  1. Having a passionate staff and a committee trained and skilled in health and wellness is definitely a differentiator.
  2. Clients that can see beyond an ROI and recognize that there is a greater VOI (value of their investment) are seeing greater success.
  3. Successful programs have strong partnerships and alliances with wellness vendors, community resources and national associations to further support our services. Whether you are a broker, HR professional or CEO, I encourage you to develop strong partnerships as they are integral to your program’s success.
  4. Most important, the coordinators of these successful programs understand that at the end of the day it’s about making someone’s life better!

Client Program Snapshot

employee wellness consultants

As we move into our ninth year of wellness programming, I wanted to provide a snapshot of where some of our client’s programs are today. These are great examples of programs done right.

Today, our client’s programs are customized around the client, their culture, and the vendors we partner with to meet their unique design and needs while also upholding our service level standards. In fact, when possible, we feel strongly that having a wellness vendor is “key” to a truly successful program looking to create change.

Each program has a designated wellness budget, a committee, and a primary wellness representative that we work with ongoing. Most all of our programs are points based, so the employees earn points for completing activities.

Other clients not shown above focus on educational, non-incentive type programs for their employees.

Client Testimonials

Clients with a culture of wellness bring many benefits that are not necessarily calculated through claims costs, health care expenditure, etc. They are recognized through the statements directly from the employees.

“In short, I came for the savings, I stayed for my health. The first year, I only participated for cost savings thinking, ’who would really like this?’ The following year, I signed up for a health coach. Now I’m living healthier, eating better, exercising more, and more importantly, feeling better. Now I think ‘who wouldn’t really like this?’”

Download our free (no form!) special report, “2016 Trends in Employer Wellness Programs,” for more information on regional, industry and group size based trends surrounding prevalence of wellness programs, carrier vs. independent providers, and wellness program components.

For complete findings within the 2016 UBA Health Plan Survey, download UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary.

For comprehensive information on designing wellness programs that create lasting change, download UBA’s whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization”.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way.

©Copyright 2016 by Heather Mills at VolkBell, a UBA Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Striving for a Culture Change in Your Wellness Program (Part 2)
14th September 2016 by Site Admin in News, General

Many wellness programs start off with good intentions, offer some education and fun, but even after several years, have failed to meet their original goals or produce real culture change. We recently reviewed the first three steps to a successful, sustainable workplace program. Here we conclude with steps four through six for setting up a successful program.

4.  Find internal wellness champions; develop and embrace an organizational vision for wellbeing.

Now that the stars are beginning to align, management is invested in the program, the partners, tools, and resources needed have been established, you can now begin to look internally at where to go next. Most wellness vendors, and consultants like me, recommend setting up a committee to champion the program. Smaller organizations might have one or two people, while a larger organization may have a larger group. To obtain a well-rounded perspective, the committee should represent the office as a whole, not just certain pieces. Different divisions, remote employees, various departments, or other organizational demographics should all be represented. A successful program needs a group of people who are in charge of equal parts of the organization and who are actively engaged in effective change. These champions are the ones the employees come to rely on for information; they are the wellness cheerleaders of your organizations, walking the talk! Members can be appointed or volunteer, but I highly recommend setting guidelines and expectations for committee members up front.

Create a vision within the committee or team and gain insight on what the employees want in a program. What is the goal and purpose of having a health and wellness program? This might seem basic, but it is a necessary question. What do you want to accomplish? Is your organization looking to drive down the cost of claims? Although cost containment may be reason to look at wellness, it should not be your only goal. Successful groups implement programs to improve the lives of employees and their families. Your vision does not have to be formal, but the purpose of the program and why it is being put in place should be communicated. As the employer, sit down and ask the employees what they want in a wellness program. You would be surprised at the number of employers I have worked with that have not asked their employees anything. Engagement with employees is vital to the success of the program; build your vision and plan with their help.

5.  Set health goals and tailor program elements and incentives to meet them in your employee wellness benefits.

With the aggregate data in hand, it is time to define a program outline and set goals. It is easy to get ahead of yourself when beginning this program by creating unrealistic goals that are too demanding of employees. You will not have 100 percent participation in your first year. Strategize and establish measurable goals with your committee, wellness vendor, and benefits consultant. Setting realistic expectations is crucial for program success.

Find the balance between offering enough activities to keep employees engaged, but not overwhelming them with so many activities that it becomes taxing. Do not be afraid to want to see your program succeed! Look ahead and create a six- to 12-month program. I prefer to create a 10-month program with some type of monthly healthy activity. Select programs and topics that relate directly back to the aggregate data you collected. For example, if you have data that says less than five percent of your population uses tobacco, then you do not need to implement a 12-week tobacco cessation program. Instead, assist that five percent by providing some free education and resources for support, then focus on where your organization might need more attention.

Find programs that support employees on their overall health journey. Ask questions to identify programs that will encourage and influence behavior changes. For most organizations, it is common to offer programming geared to employees that are pre-hypertensive or hypertensive, overweight, obese, have high cholesterol, or employees experiencing high stress and anxiety. Rely on your benefits consultant or wellness vendor to make the best practice recommendations for creating behavior changes related to these risk areas. You may be able to use your existing Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and market it more heavily. In more extreme cases, you may need to utilize health coaches available with your wellness vendor or through your disease management program.

Think of setting goals in terms of the percentage of participation would you like to see in the first, second, third, and future years. For example, you may want to see utilization of medical preventive care benefits increase from 57 to 75 percent, or see employee engagement increase from one activity to the next. Setting two to five measurable goals early on, then evaluating those goals monthly, provides valuable insight into the program’s success. Make goals and programming obtainable; create an atmosphere of success for your employees.

Do not forget to use incentives. What will get your population “moving?” The discussion of whether intrinsic or extrinsic incentives are more effective is a lengthy one and of much debate these days.

From internal case studies, it is my expert opinion that employers willing to link their wellness program incentives to their benefit plan design in the form of reduced medical premiums, or making contributions to an employee’s health savings account or flexible spending account, see the greatest level of participation and overall behavior change in their employees. Of course, this does not occur overnight, but rather over time in coordination with your benefits consultant. This becomes a way of creating a cost-effective and consumer-driven healthcare plan that uses incentives to encourage your employees to make high-value decisions. A testimonial from one of our client’s employees says it all when it comes to intrinsic vs. extrinsic incentives.

“In short, I came for the savings, I stayed for my health. The first year I only participated for cost savings thinking, ‘Who would really like this?’ The following year I signed up for a health coach. Now I’m living healthier, eating better, exercising more, and more importantly, feeling better. Now I think, ‘Who wouldn’t really like this’?”

6. Kick it off, communicate and evaluate.

Roll out your program! Hold a kick-off party for the employees in the office, and conduct a webinar for the employees who work off-site. Provide employees with an overview of the program so they understand why your organization has created a wellness program, what employees should expect from their program, and the vision of the program.

Make sure to communicate about the program weekly, and use all forms of communication. Ask your employees what frequency of emails they prefer. Many of our clients, including my own company, like to have two emails a week to remind them of what is going on. Use social media, provide videos, webinars, etc. The more buzz that can be created around the program the better. Keep employees engaged and excited when it comes to your program, but do not overwhelm them with communication. Send emails about the challenges keeping employees engaged and involved, on who is winning, and success of activities. Create an environment of success using these communication methods.

Last, evaluate the program realistically. What went well? What needs improvement moving forward? Get real-time reporting from the vendor for participation. Review the program throughout the year and adjust as needed – no program is ever static. If you are not making changes each year, you are not being realistic. Improvements can always be made. Survey employees about things they learned, what they liked, and what they would do differently. You can use your vendor or benefits consultant to assist here. Make sure that the feedback from the employee surveys is taken into consideration when moving forward with the program. The more employees engage in the wellness program in its entirety, the more success you will have moving forward.

For additional trends among wellness programs, download In UBA’s new whitepaper: “Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization”.

To understand legal requirements for wellness programs, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” which reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way. With over 20 pages of comprehensive guidance, examples and frequently asked questions, this is an invaluable employer resource.

For the latest statistics from the UBA survey examining wellness program design among 19,557 health plans and 11,524 employers, pre-order UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary which will be available to the public in late September.

©Copyright 2016 by Heather Mills and VolkBell, a United Benefit Advisors Partner Firm. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.