Wellness at work

Wellness is a management program, not an HR initiative.

Many companies offer wellness initiatives. Here are a number of reasons why companies believe wellness initiatives should be organized;

  • recruitment and retention
  • lower health insurance costs
  • genuine care for employee’s wellbeing
  • maintain/improving productivity
  • avoid legal costs
  • improve employee’s morale

We are all very used to companies providing health insurance and the trend to offer wellness benefits is directly linked to it. From the above reasons the one lowering costs of Health Insurance was the most important one for about 74% of employers surveyed on the topic.

The reason employers offer health insurance (and not your church, subdivision or home owners association) is that back in the days, there was a freeze on pay (Stabilization act of 1942). In an effort to continue to be able to attract the best and the brightest, employers sought to increase the value of their package for employees and so they started to offer health insurance. Later the tax treatment began to take over as the main reason to offer the insurance and these days we don’t even question it anymore.

The wellness initiatives come in various shapes and forms, from friendly advice and information that gets distributed, to financial incentives to go for preventative health care and financial disincentives to maintain unhealthy habits.

As a manager what is your role in the wellness at work?

First you need to understand why you offer the wellness initiatives. Next you need to be happy with the impact on the employees of the various wellness offerings and thirdly you need to support the communication of the wellness initiatives.

All too often we see health and wellness programs totally run by the benefits- or Human Resources department. Although these departments will be able to offer expertise in setting the plans up and executing it in a responsible manner, they are not the decision makers over the resources of the company. Goal clarity is important and Management needs to set the goals and make sure employees know where this fits into the overall strategy of the company. Employees look at their management and will react depending on Management’s behavior. When management does not look to be in charge of the wellness programs, it will remain a benefit that lives on the sidelines of employee’s attention. However when Management fully supports and spearheads the decision to go for wellness programs and actively participates it can accomplish its goals. Offering wellness programs at work needs to be thought through carefully as the majority of the beneficiaries of your health plan are probably spouses and children of employees who not normally come to the company.

A good article about some simple yet very effective ways to get started is HERE

There is a lively debate about whether or not the wellness plans deliver on their promise to cut health insurance costs and one article capturing three studies is HERE

Meanwhile a huge business developed in wellness programs said to top $10 billion.

If you follow the theory from Herzberg about motivators and hygiene factors, it should be clear that wellness can never be a motivator but should be seen in the hygiene factor category, meaning that you need to treat it from a recruitment and retention perspective as a competitive benefit. No one joins a company solely for their wellness offering. People may however become dissatisfied with their package if it does not include wellness when their peers all enjoy it at their companies.

Looking at the wellness plans as a major factor in containing the cost of health insurance, turns the management decision to what will provide you with most cost-savings while not upsetting the competitiveness of the overall package.

Wellness is a management program, as all programs are that have an impact on costs to the company and the ability to attract and retain talent.


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