Factors to Consider When Choosing a Workplace Wellness Program
a young call centre representative greets a caller in a large open plan office as her supervisor watches over her shoulder and helps her through the call to choose a workplace wellness program.

Workplace wellness and disease prevention programs are on the rise, offering a promising solution to our health care crisis. However, with the abundance of programs on the market today it can be hard to tell which type of workplace wellness program will be most effective for your employees. And, should all employees be treated equal?

Measuring The Success Of A Workplace Wellness Program

To be considered successful, a disease prevention program needs to achieve two outcomes:

  • The corporate wellness program you select must result in improved employee health.
  • The improvement in employee health must be significant enough to reduce medical costs and/or increase workplace productivity, thereby generating a positive return on investment.

How To Evaluate Workplace Wellness Programs

A good starting point when choosing a corporate wellness program, is to review the questions asked in the initial assessment; these questions provide good insights into the quality and detail of the plan.

The one-size-fits-all approach asks basic questions without digging deep into the behavior and personal lifestyle of the employee. This workplace wellness model usually encourages the use of an exercise facility either covering the cost of a membership or offering equipment at your workplace, and also includes basic nutrition information.

For some employers the one-size-fits-all approach is good enough. Other employers may want more. These employers understand that their employees are unique and believe a more personalized approach to workplace wellness will lead to greater success in meeting their objectives of improving employee health, reducing health care costs and increasing workplace productivity.

A more personalized approach gets really personal and, asks questions such as current lifestyle practices, exercise habits, stress management techniques, sleep patterns, dietary habits, tobacco usage, and sometimes even delves into behavioral science, blood work and genetic testing.

Genetic testing helps employees understand how the genes they inherited from their parents impact their lifestyle choices. Genetic testing also plays a role in program prescription since different individuals require different dietary advice, intensity of exercise and behavioral counseling.

When specific testing is involved, choose a program that provides a comprehensive action plan and health coaching so employees are not overwhelmed by the test results.

Did you know that stress and sleep are both independently linked to disease and obesity? Employees that sleep well and have good stress management techniques have higher energy levels, more stamina, and are more productive. A more comprehensive workplace wellness program teaches these techniques through personalized health coaching and social engagement.

Social engagement is becoming more popular today, and the more personalized programs are coming up with ways to motivate and challenge participants based on personality type. For example: the competitive personality type is motivated by winning. This type of individual may increase their activity intensity or double their step count to come out on top. Other more social participants prefer to participate in support groups, share favorite meals and recipes, and discuss challenges and successes. Either way social engagement programs improve well-being and deliver results.

Many corporate wellness programs today offer health coaching, and it can be tricky to figure out what this means. A good starting point would be to understand the educational level and experience of the health coaches, and how they interact with your employees. Personality-matching health coaches to participants guarantee a higher level of success and build personal relationships that can last for years.

The Most Important Program Elements to Consider

Choose the elements you believe will make a good program for your employees and ask yourself the following questions to help you with the evaluation process:

  • How does a wellness program educate participants?
  • How is accountability achieved?
  • Is coaching provided? If so how often and by whom?
  • Is the coaching provided one-on-one or is it group coaching?
  • What areas of health will the program address in addition to diet and exercise? Sleep, stress, anxiety, smoking cessation, etc.?
  • Will the program offer personalized recommendations or generic tips?
  • Is the initial assessment comprehensive enough to take into account employee lifestyle and busy work schedule?
  • Will the program suggest effective but realistic recommendations?
  • Does the program attempt to understand employee motivation?
  • Does the program include genetic testing or other types of testing that gets to know each of your employees on a deeper level?


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