11 Steps to Start a Corporate Employee Wellness Program

Learn how to start a corporate wellness program that employees will want to join

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Building an employee wellness program can be an effective way to achieve a happier, healthier workforce. All of these factors add up to higher productivity levels, which can generate additional revenues for the business. It takes several steps to start a robust corporate wellness program that gets results for your workforce.

Get Management Buy-In

You can't start building a wellness program if you don't have support from the leadership at your company. To obtain support, you'll likely need to provide a presentation to the executives and communicate the value of the program in a few key areas:

  • Employee benefits: Convey how the program might improve the condition of the workforce (for example, by helping workers feel more engaged and less stressed).
  • Employer benefits: Communicate how the benefits the company (for example, by improving workplace morale and productivity and reducing employer health insurance premium costs).
  • Strategic goals: Demonstrate how the plan supports previously stated objectives of the company (for example, by boosting employee retention and recruitment).

Tailor your presentation to the company mission and the objectives and leadership style of executives to improve the odds that upper management will sign off on a wellness program.

Use an Employee Assessment to Evaluate Needs

When you set out to create a corporate benefits program, you should focus on the actual needs of your employees so that the program serves them. To get this information, conduct a workplace survey and directly ask employees about specific lifestyle and wellness habits and concerns that employees have so that your corporate wellness program caters to them.

Some employees may simply want to become more active; others may want to reach targeted fitness goals. Get to the heart of these needs to increase participation in the wellness program.

Assemble a Wellness Committee

Once you have a general sense of what employees need, appoint a wellness committee—a group of employees who helps plan, roll out, and advocate for a wellness program within an organization.

The committee should comprise employees from diverse corporate levels and departments, including the executive team, human resources, information technology, and the general employee population.

Set a Budget for the Corporate Wellness Program

Most businesses don't have an unlimited budget for these programs. You'll need to decide how much you can afford to spend on the program so that you can offer a program type that suits that budget.

To put a number to the corporate wellness program, factor in the following:

  • Fees for employee benefits companies and vendors
  • Wellness technology
  • Program promotion costs
  • Program incentive costs
  • Cost of the time spent by your staff on program planning

Establish a Corporate Wellness Program

Based on your budget and the needs revealed by the workforce survey, gather the wellness committee and compile a few broad types of corporate wellness programs that fit the bill. Common types of wellness programs include:

  • Education programs: These hands-off programs provide employees access to self-guided training so they can pursue healthy habits on their own.
  • Community building: These employer- or employee-led programs help foster positive relationships between employees in and outside of work through company clubs or recreational sports teams.
  • Preventative care programs: Employers who implement these programs enlist wellness vendors to conduct on-site health screenings or offer tailored programs to help curb negative behaviors such as smoking.
  • Healthy habits: These employer-led programs can arrange classes or offer devices such as fitness trackers to help employees eat healthier or get fit.
  • Disease management: Leadership can offer these targeted programs if many people in the workforce have specific health issues that can be mediated through treatment.

Through a combination of employee surveys and discussions with the wellness committee members, you should be able to establish a concrete wellness plan of the type you want with individual components that meet your employee needs. For example, you might choose to offer a healthy habits program that offers yoga classes, gym membership, and local group runs.

Partner With an Employee Benefits Company and Wellness Vendors

Companies generally don't administer corporate wellness plans on their own. A corporate wellness program requires the assistance of many people and resources, most notably an employee benefits company and wellness vendors.

Work directly with an insurance broker to find an employee benefits company that caters to your budget and the wellness program you want to offer. You will also need to choose and then connect multiple local wellness vendors to provide services like onsite massage therapy and healthy cooking demos, or products like discounted wellness gear.

Select Corporate Wellness Technology Tools

Employees can't keep track of their health behaviors on paper. To facilitate your corporate wellness program, you'll need to research and find at least one technology product that can help employees self-manage their wellness goals. Look into wellness tech tools that can help employees keep their health in check and gain access to the resources they need to make informed choices, including:

  • Technology platforms: These are generally web-based interfaces that employees can use to input and track health data over time.
  • Fitness trackers: Trackers are wearable devices that allow employees to monitor their exercise routines, sleep habits, and vitals like heart rate on the go.
  • Apps: Mobile apps let employees keep track of everything from calories to the number of steps walked in a day.

Develop a Written Employee Wellness Policy

As with any other employee policy you create, you should publish clear employee wellness program guidelines in conjunction with your wellness committee and make them part of your employee handbook before employees enroll in the program.

Distribute the guidelines when recruiting and when enrolling employees in their benefit plans. Likewise, put up posters around the workplace to educate employees about the wellness initiative.

Roll Out the Wellness Program

Communicate the newly established system of perks to your workforce. The best way for companies to alert employees to the plan is through an onsite health and wellness fair for employees and their families. Work with local vendors to participate, and include a wide variety of interests to make this a popular event, such as nutrition, fitness, and stress management.

Schedule the wellness fair at least two months before the annual open enrollment period so that employees can determine what their current health care needs are and what wellness program offerings will meet those needs.

Provide Wellness Incentives to Promote Health

While your wellness fair will be a fun event, it’s no substitute for year-round education and promotion of your wellness program. It's not just the job of the wellness committee to evangelize the wellness program.

Make wellness part of your corporate culture by offering ongoing incentives for employees to take steps to better their health, such as lower costs on employee health insurance premiums. Likewise, host walking and running clubs, have an area on campus for fitness and de-stressing and create marketing around the idea of wellness at work.

Gather Feedback and Results for Future Improvements

Be on the alert for any trends in the way employees respond to and participate in the wellness program you offer. Make sure to collect this feedback and meet with the wellness committee regularly to brainstorm ideas for how to continually improve the program.

Over time, positive stories will emerge from the ranks of those who take part in the wellness offerings. Highlighting these stories can help attract non-participants to the program to make it even more popular among employees.