Workplace wellness programs are on the rise. According to a 2017 survey by UnitedHealthcare, 70% of companies now offer an on-site wellness program to their employees, up from 58% in 2008.

That surge in popularity is due in large part to rising healthcare costs, which have forced many employers to look for more creative ways to reduce expenses. On-site wellness programs offer substantial savings because they promote healthier lifestyles among employees, which lead to reduced claims.

Two Truths About Patient Engagement

In this study, we looked at 4,118 participating patients at Seattle Children's over the course of six years. 46% of these patients used the Vera on-site clinic. The remaining 54% did not.

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But not all wellness programs are created equally. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of five common approaches to corporate wellness programs.

Fitness Centers and Club Memberships

Pros:
  • Fitness center discounts are the most requested benefit
  • Lower barrier to fitness access can lead to increased physical activity
  • Increased physical activity can lead to increased productivity and focus at work
  • Encourages healthy lifestyle
Cons:
  • On-site fitness facilities can be a liability and are costly to maintain
  • Appeals primarily to employees who are already fit

FitnessCenter

 

Nutritional Education

Pros:
  • Employees may lose weight (and reduce healthcare costs)
  • Encourages healthy choices and lifestyles
  • Can be a low-cost way to offer a wellness program
Cons:
  • Employees can continue unhealthy nutrition habits regardless of access or education
  • Employees resistant to change don't have incentive to engage

Nutrition

 

Health Screenings and Health Risk Assessments

Pros:
  • Identifies health risks to raise employee awareness of the impact of their choices
  • Evidence-based interventions can be recommended
  • Helps employees monitor their health
Cons:
  • Employers must be careful not to violate HIPAA, GINA, or ADA
  • Does not require or allow employees to take any immediate action to improve health
  • Studies have shown that health risk assessment surveys on their own are generally ineffective

HealthScreenings

 

Weight-Loss Programs

Pros:
  • Creates a community for employees and encourages healthy lifestyles
  • Targets obesity, which can lead to substantial health improvements for employees
  • Can involve many other components e.g., nutrition, exercise, and mental health programs
Cons:
  • Some may be too shy or feel ashamed to engage; lack of engagement
  • Possible cost of outside program sponsorship

WeightLoss

Fitness and Health Competitions

Pros:
  • Creates friendly competition which encourages engagement
  • Invigorates morale and makes it fun to be healthy
  • Leads to goal-setting and accountability
Cons:
  • Maintaining participation and enthusiasm can be difficult
  • Might be isolating for uncompetitive people
  • Possibility of an employee injury during a company-sponsored event
Competitions

Behavior Change Is the Key

Each of the above wellness programs has one thing in common. To be truly effective, they must change behavior. For a fitness program to work, it needs to engage employees who aren’t fit, which means they must decide to change their lifestyle to accommodate a workout. Health screenings require that people make positive lifestyle changes after receiving their results. The same is true of nutritional programs, weight-loss initiatives, and competitions.

Effective behavior change starts by meeting a person where they’re at. Are they ready to change their behavior? Are they ready to consider it? Are they even aware that they need to change?

True, behavior change starts by understanding a person’s current state of change then providing them with the resources and support they need to make incremental changes that build confidence, and finally allowing them to take ownership of their own health.

Want to learn more about the power of behavior change? Take a look at our eBook: Sick Care Is Doomed To Failure.

 

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