Weaving Wellness into Your Organization

By Heidi Bowman

Wellness programs can give a big boost to your organization’s health—literally, figuratively, and financially. In today’s Advisor, Heidi Bowman, senior vice president and general manager of Weight Watchers® Health Solutions, has tips for success.

Guiding your employees through the health plan process is undeniably important. However, we have found that when planning for open enrollment season, many companies tend to overlook a vital spoke in their hub—wellness programs. Educating employees on the benefits of a yearlong wellness plan contributes immeasurably to a healthier, happier life and a healthier bottom line.

Open enrollment season is the prime time to align company interests with employee wellness, something that 59% of companies with a culture of health view as essential to a company’s engagement strategy, according to Optum’s 6th Annual Wellness in the Workplace study. It takes a multifaceted focus to maximize enrollment season, involving employee engagement, frequent communication, and risk assessments.

Key Components to Wellness Success

If you can’t generate employee interest in adopting wellness in their everyday lives, your program won’t advance. Incentives are clearly important: think health challenges for entertaining engagement; programming to leverage social behavior within group endeavors; and the latest digital platforms to delight participants, keeping them involved.

One proven incentive involves companies covering half the cost of a wellness program. Even better, there is a correlation between higher employee engagement and a greater subsidy (some companies cover up to 100% of the cost).

Consider one such success story, out of Indiana University Health (IU Health). The University incorporated Weight Watchers into its “Healthy Results” wellness program by offering a free or discounted membership to all employees.

Employees who qualify for the discount are required to attend at least 9 out of 12 meetings in a 3-month period, and once the requirements are met, they are able to submit a request for reimbursement and can receive points toward their insurance premium reduction level. By offering such a deal, IU Health found employees were engaged and excited about its wellness program year-round.

Strategic Communication

Use a combination of tactics to increase awareness and engagement. IU Health, for example, crafted a benefits guide and incorporated messaging into internal communications. Additionally, for communications to resonate, the commitment to wellness must emanate from the senior-most leadership.

In IU Health’s case, leadership understood the importance of allowing employees to attend and participate in their wellness program on work time.

Communicating an incentive strategy frequently—with new, refreshed, and targeted messaging—is important. For example, companies have found success communicating at trigger points like elevators and cafeterias.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, Bowman discusses health risk assessments, as well as the bottom line for companies regarding wellness.