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Making Health and Wellness Programs Work

As an employer you are yearly examining your health insurance costs.  The numbers are very fluid, often increasing in double digits each and every year.  The time you are spending shopping for new insurance is now a yearly must.

Is there anything you can do to keep your employees healthy and reduce the costs you are spending on health insurance?

It may be time to consider a health and wellness program.  Now is the time to work more on prevention than treatment.  The costs to prevent disease are significantly less than the costs to treat a disease.

Most employers start with a basic health risk assessment that will determine a baseline of their employee’s current health and where they are at risk.

This questionnaire educates each individual/employee on areas of risk and where they can modify behaviors to improve their health.  If taken multiple times in a year a health risk assessment can be used to track a person’s progress on improving their health.

This questionnaire is also useful to the employer to identify health risk trends in their unique population.  Those risk areas can then be addressed at a corporate level to improve the overall health of the group at large.

This sounds great, right?  You will be able to use the knowledge from this simple questionnaire, improve the health of individuals thereby improving the group as a whole and hopefully saving you some health medical costs along the way.

Your first obstacle may be getting your employees to participate.

We are now living in a world where our cell phones can pinpoint our location and so can our cars.

Our local grocery store can track our purchases.  They know what we buy how often we buy it and will even send us coupons based on our buying habits.

We have to shred documents that come into our home in order to protect our personal information from being stolen and our credit and bank accounts ruined.

Our computers track where we surf the web and our archive our emails.

Our text messages can be harvested from our phones.

Is there any privacy left?  You know the commercial, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.  Well even that isn’t true with all the cell phones out there that can record everything.  But most of us used to feel that when it came to your doctor, that was just between you and your doctor.  And now you are asking an employee to fill out a health questionnaire.  This perception of sharing personal information with your boss (and depending on the size of the company, someone you may not have any real relationship at all) can be a scary thing for people to overcome.

You must overcome your employee’s fears about filling out the questionnaire in order to get participation numbers that truly represent your population.  If you don’t any health initiatives that you attempt to use to improve the health of your workforce will have limited impact.

 

What are your employee’s concerns?

Is this information really private?

Can I be fired or passed up for promotion if the true picture of my health is revealed?

Can my boss identify me specifically from my answers?

 

What can you do to overcome your employee’s fears?

You need to explain how this information is beneficial to them individually.  A health risk assessment will show them areas where small habit changes can help improve their overall health.  This questionnaire can statistically show areas where they are at risk right now.

You need to assure the employee that when the employer reviews the information as a group there is no way for them to identify specific individuals.  The employees are allowed to create their own user name and password and that protects the employee from allowing the employer from gaining access to their specific data.

If you still find your workforce hesitant, you may want to hire an outside health and wellness company to administer the test and tabulate results, insulating the employer further from any access to their personal answers on the health questionnaire.

And you may need to wage a marketing campaign that outlines the benefits this can have company wide.  For example by you assisting your employees with their health risks, together you can:

Reduce employee absence,

Increase productivity of the current workforce,

Reduce medical costs of doctor visits and prescription drugs both individually and corporately,

Possibly reduce overall health care insurance costs,

Improve employee satisfaction.

Your workforce needs to feel like you are on their side, that what makes them better makes you better.  They need to feel united with you to tackle the health care challenges that are facing them individually and our country as a whole.

You also may want to consider some type of incentive for participating.  As an example, if you get your HRA (heath risk assessment) filled in before Friday you can wear jeans to work.  Or we will give you $50 towards your medical expenses this year.  You must determine what will motivate your workforce.  Remember in order to be effective you must have statistical information to start from.

 

Identify risks and offer solutions.

Now that you have established a baseline for your workforce, you need to identify areas of risk where your population could improve.

As an example, from your specific aggregate data you can determine if your workforce is addicted to smoking, struggling with weight issues or trying to manage high blood pressure.

Once you determine that, you can implement some programs that will address these issues.

For example, you could start a smoking cessation group to help those who are battling this addiction.  Or provide financial assistance for smoking cessation products.

If you need to help people with their weight, how about providing healthier snacking options in the break room vending machine.

If you have a mainly sedentary workforce, people at their desks, you may want to encourage some exercise to improve their health scores.  How about providing step counters?  A step counter is a small device that you wear on your person.  It counts the number of steps you take in a day/week/month etc.  These are fun and can spark competition to see who can take the most steps in a week.  This will get your workforce up and moving around.  Being sedentary is not healthy.

Exercise is so important to overall good health and has been proven to reduce stress.  You could consider, sponsoring a work softball team or volleyball team.  This can not only get people active by enjoying an activity they love, it can also build teamwork and friendships outside of the office.

 

Your program is a success if….

You have a high participation rate among employees for filling in the health risk questionnaire.

You have documented less sick days and less absenteeism.

You have positive feedback from your employees on what they have learned from their assessment and the classes and resources you have made available to them.

Employees are seeing health improvements with better wellness scores, risks are being reduced.

Corporately your aggregate data is improving by risk factor.

Employees are reporting an increase in job satisfaction and fewer employees are quitting.  This proves that people like working here, they are happy to apart of your team.

You were able to reduce overall health insurance costs.

 

It is going to cost money to be proactive about preventing illness and disease.  So you probably aren’t going to determine success based on dollars alone.  That is why you should consider all of the above criteria when determining success.  As an employer if you remain faithful to helping your employees reap the benefits of good health you will be compensated by a productive, energetic and content workforce.

 

Keep in mind:  good employees are hard to find, costly to train and important to keep.

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