4 Keys To Making Workplace Wellness Programs Worth It

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There is a great deal of research suggesting that wellness programs dont work. Some research suggests that they often lead to significant costs for employers, without bringing much back in terms of reduced healthcare costs. Putting aside the fact that theres plenty of research to suggest that they do work, lets talk about strategies that overcome many of the pitfalls that undermine workplace wellness programs so you can design a program that can be a big win for your balance sheet.

Give Appropriate Incentives

Workplace wellness programsA key to insuring the success of this or any other workplace initiative is to make sure youre giving your employees the right incentives. Truth be told, most employees wont cross the street for a piece of company swag, making this type of incentive a waste of money.

Real incentives that employees are willing to work for, such as bonuses and extra vacation days, can be expensive, but they can also be worth it. Make sure you gauge the cost of incentives against the savings.

Use a Workplace Wellness Program That Improves Productivity

There are other potential gains to be made from a workplace wellness program other than reduced financial costs. One of the biggest potential gains is in productivity. Look for wellness programs that can boost your productivity as well as reduce your healthcare costs.

Some good examples of this include sleep apnea treatment and smoking cessation. Sleep apnea leads to daytime sleepiness, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, and more. When your employees get treatment for sleep apnea, they become not just healthier, theyre better employees. Smoking cessation can also be great for productivity. Fewer smoking breaks and less craving distraction are just two of the potential benefits for productivity.

In contrast, something like a gym program can be bad for productivity. People squeezing gym visits in before work, after work, or during lunch breaks can increase lateness, early departures, and long lunches.

Target Big-Ticket Gains with Low-Cost Interventions

You already know that there are two ways to improve your margins. You can either increase returns or decrease investment. You cant always control returns, but you can control investment, so make sure youre investing in interventions that have the potential to dramatically reduce your companys healthcare costs.

One great example is when Union Pacific Railroad targeted sleep apnea treatment for their employees, saving the company nearly $5 million in healthcare costs. Sleep apnea is a lynchpin illness, which connects diabetes, heart problems, mental illness, and more. Getting employees to get treatment for sleep apnea dramatically slashed healthcare costs. Whats even better about this campaign? The cost was minimal, consisting of just three informative postcards mailed to appropriate candidates.

To get the most from your workplace wellness initiatives, make sure youre targeting lynchpin conditions, like obesity or smoking. And try to keep investment down.


Another great way to improve the success of your workplace wellness program is to bring it up-to-date with recent technological and social innovations. In particular, the advent of social media and smartphones have changed the fitness landscape. People love to share their workouts and eating habits, and theyre happy to give tons of data about themselves in the context of social media. Workplace wellness programs that incorporate new fitness programs and social media have the potential to motivate employees to a degree you might never have thought possible.

The Workplace Wellness Program Isnt Dead

Assessments that cast gloom and doom on the prospect of successful workplace wellness programs shouldnt make you think theyre dead. In fact, theyre feeling better. They may even go for a walk.


Dr Matthew Candelaria


Contributor: Dr. Matthew B. Candelaria (PhD, U of Kansas 2006) is a freelance writer and, among other things, a big fan of Monty Python, and has been known to add allusions to their work in his writing (which is certainly not uncontaminated with cheese).

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