9 Best Practices to Increase Engagement in Wellness

January 1 – the day marked by fresh starts and resolutions to lose weight, stop smoking or live a healthier lifestyle. More businesses hoping to make these positive changes stick for their employees are investing in employee well-being programs. But, much like the resolutions themselves, businesses can’t just launch a program and expect it to maintain itself. It takes continued work and a strong commitment.

Workplace wellness is a $40 billion industry and growing, according to estimates from the Global Wellness Institute. This money is being invested in well-being programs, which are designed to encourage healthier lifestyles, curb preventable chronic diseases and ultimately reduce health-care costs for both the company, and individual employees.

Creating sustainable, positive changes through a well-being program can be a challenge. To ensure success, encourage greater engagement and achieve the desired ROI, you should follow these nine best practices identified in a peer-reviewed study conducted by StayWell:

1. Garner strong senior management support

Fifty-three percent of employees who don’t participate in wellness programs cite lack of management support, according to HBR.org. To succeed, employees at all levels – from the executive suite to the manufacturing floor – need to buy in to your program. When designing a program, you must make sure it supports management’s sincere interest in employee well-being and also meets larger goals of reducing health risks and health-care costs, which, in turn, improve productivity and engagement.

2. Design a comprehensive program

Overall employee participation increases with comprehensive programs because more employee interests are addressed, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. To make a difference, your program should offer something for the 70 percent of the employee population who may not be ready to change their behavior yet, and address all aspects of well-being, including stress management and change resiliency, as well as all stages of disease progression.

3. Integrate incentives

Participation rates increase with appropriate incentives, according to StayWell research. Incentives must be designed to drive strategically important outcomes. These can come in the form of short-term initiatives that guide employees along a path to long-term, sustainable intrinsic incentives. Or you can use non-financial incentives, such as recognition for reaching certain goals or games in which employees compete against each other.

4. Develop an integrated, comprehensive communication strategy

According to research, 69 percent of employees who don’t participate in wellness programs cite lack of awareness. A solid communications strategy – which addresses employees’ reasons for not participating, provides feedback and recognition for participation, and leverages data to determine the most appropriate communications channels – will drive greater participation.

5. Have dedicated onsite program management staff

HBR.org reports that 75 percent of employees participating in well-being programs say that a personalized, customized approach from on-site experts and coaches is important. Greater engagement will occur if you have dedicated, certified well-being staff onsite as part of the program, and those individuals are available at times that are convenient for employees.

6. Leverage multiple program modalities

While TechCrunch reports that U.S. adults spend an average of five hours per day on their smartphones, it’s important to realize that many employees – especially those over age 50 or earning under $50,000 annually – may not have a smartphone. While you’ll want to ensure that the program maximizes employee convenience by being available at any time, from any location, through an app, it is equally important to offer in-person, mail and telephone-based options to engage, as well.

7. Utilize population-based awareness-building activities

When population-based cultural activities are part of the well-being program, participation rates increase, StayWell research reveals. You will want to include activities that increase social connectedness, including the participation of colleagues and managers. Additionally, chances of a program’s success increase if activities are linked to your company’s greater purpose or enables participants to give back to larger communities and non-profits.

8. Offer biometric health screenings

Employers reported lowered health risk and savings in healthcare costs when screenings were incorporated into their corporate wellness program, according to the HERO Employee Health Management Best Practice Scorecard. You’ll want to consider whether the program encourages employees to see their primary care physicians for biometric testing and follow up, and whether those results are included in the program. Also important to continued success is having screenings that provide instant results and in-the-moment education.

9. Encourage vendor integration

Integrating across all vendors to support employee well-being increases convenience for employees. For example, can an employee’s activity tracker and device data be leveraged to personalize the program? Additionally, the program should encourage referrals and transfers to collaborating vendors to achieve strategic outcomes.

Implementing these best practices can result in tangible benefits. The StayWell research published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports health risks declining by 4.7 percent in companies that employed these best practices, compared to just a two percent decrease at organizations that did not. Beyond employee health risks, these best practices can help businesses achieve tangible results and achieve their goals of improved health management efforts, higher program participation and lower overall health-care costs.

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