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.
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
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
On-site fitness facilities can be a liability and are costly to maintain
Appeals primarily to employees who are already fit
Employees may lose weight (and reduce healthcare costs)
Encourages healthy choices and lifestyles
Can be a low-cost way to offer a wellness program
Employees can continue unhealthy nutrition habits regardless of access or education
Employees resistant to change don't have incentive to engage
Health Screenings and Health Risk Assessments
Identifies health risks to raise employee awareness of the impact of their choices
Evidence-based interventions can be recommended
Helps employees monitor their health
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
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
Some may be too shy or feel ashamed to engage; lack of engagement
Possible cost of outside program sponsorship
Fitness and Health Competitions
Creates friendly competition which encourages engagement
Invigorates morale and makes it fun to be healthy
Leads to goal-setting and accountability
Maintaining participation and enthusiasm can be difficult
Might be isolating for uncompetitive people
Possibility of an employee injury during a company-sponsored event
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.