By Pam Mortenson, EVP, Wellness Solutions, West Corporation / Health Advocate Solutions
You’re working hard at workplace wellness. Why isn’t the payoff – in terms of reduced healthcare costs and better outcomes – keeping pace with your investments?
If you’re like many companies, you may be providing your employees with an increasing menu of services such as biometric assessments, mental and behavioral health, wellness coaching, work/life balance programs and EAP offerings. What may be missing is a customized plan for each employee that takes him or her on a journey towards health.
You need a GPS.
Most employers know an increasing body of evidence points to the fact that a holistic focus on wellbeing is far more effective than an emphasis on physical health alone. A recent study by the journal Psychological Science found that more than 78 percent of employers said they’re expanding their wellbeing programs into areas like financial wellness and mental health.
The problem is that simply adding more discrete programs on the shelf won’t do much good without a thoughtful strategy around weaving the various programs together to form an integrated approach focused on the holistic wellness of each employee.
Ready. Set. Go!
Every GPS trip has a beginning, middle and end, and for corporate wellbeing programs, that first step is usually biometric testing. The results can be hard to take: an employee may find out s/he has hypertension, high cholesterol, is at risk for diabetes, or has a BMI that classifies her/him as obese. Workers may shut down and become disengaged, unless you are standing by with solutions that fit their unique health profiles and lifestyles.
GPS gives us some choices for our journey: we can take the fastest route or the more scenic route that avoids highways. It’s no different with employee wellbeing roadmaps. A worker’s hypertension, for instance, may be exacerbated by the stress of taking care of an aging parent. Meeting this worker where he is, with EAP, stress reduction or work/life balance resources, may help clear the way for him to start exercising and focusing on his own health.
The wellbeing journey can seem overwhelming, if employees have to seek out and coordinate different resources on their own. Like GPS, employers need to offer landmarks and mileage estimates, in the form of customized wellbeing interactions, delivered to each employee via preferred communications channels.
While some workers may want weekly wellness coach phone calls to better manage their diabetes, others may prefer daily text messages. Some may need reminders to take breaks, while others need a nudge to get moving.
Use the HOV lane
What else can employers do to keep workers on track to their wellbeing goals? Make sure they carpool.
Drivers who carpool can leverage the HOV lane to get to work faster. Likewise, workers with family and friends onboard may meet wellbeing goals faster than those traveling alone.
Data from the famous Framingham Heart study show that, for instance, a friend or coworker who ditches cigarettes increases a smoker’s likelihood of quitting by more than a third. If a worker’s spouse quit smoking, the other partner was 67 percent more likely to quit him or herself. Other statistics show similar benefits of social networks on diet and exercise goals.
The journey is the destination
The real-long term ROI benefits of wellbeing programs, such as lower health care costs, increased worker engagement, higher productivity and improved health outcomes, will depend on maintaining healthy lifestyles long after a worker reaches a certain number on the scale, or on the pedometer.
Employers can keep workers engaged by making the journey enjoyable. Integrating friendly competitions into each worker’s wellbeing plan can leverage positive peer pressure, and help prevent turnover in wellbeing programs once workers have met their goals. Wellbeing competitions can also reinvigorate workers whose health goals have stalled, offering them a tune-up before getting back on the road to wellbeing.
And if you’re ready to create customized wellbeing journeys for your workers, we can help. Let West be your GPS.