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December 11, 2017 How To

How To: Implement a successful workplace wellness program

Diane Abramson

A well-designed workplace wellness program can significantly reduce employer health care costs while increasing employee retention, motivation and morale. Wellness programs have been shown to reduce absenteeism, employee stress, workers' compensation and disability costs and staff turnover.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by United Benefit Advisors, annual health care premiums have risen to $18,764 for a plan, with employers paying an average of $13,050 per employee. Organizations can significantly shrink their health care costs by providing wellness programs that focus on health education, behavioral change and increased physical activity. Changes in health habits will appreciably postpone and prevent the onset of many chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, depression and anxiety.

There are resources available that can guide companies in formulating, communicating, educating and promoting an effective workplace wellness program. Before prescribing physical activity and healthy living, make sure to provide the tools that employees will need to be successful.

Tips for Implementing a successful workplace wellness program:

  • Conduct a needs assessment: Invite your staff to participate in a workplace wellness survey. This survey will help your organization determine what its employees' want from a health promotion program. A healthier workplace cannot be sustained without a culture that supports change, allows its employees to practice healthy lifestyle behaviors and promotes improved lifestyle choices.
  • Obtain managerial support: It is crucial that managers embrace the workplace wellness program and allow their employees to participate without prejudice or retaliation. By providing a workplace wellness program, companies are offering tangible benefits to their workforce and deconstructing barriers to healthier living.   
  • Create a wellness committee: Committee members should represent a diverse group of individuals from a cross-section of the organization. Be open to volunteers who are already active and passionate about wellness as well as those health seekers who are eager to pursue a more salutary lifestyle. The wellness committee will be responsible for setting clear and defined goals for the initiative, implementing programs that promote a healthy work environment and culture of wellness and providing a link between the wellness program and the employees.
  • Implement programs: Select programs that are inclusive and that motivate change by increasing employee's knowledge, challenge beliefs and influence attitudes. 'Wellness' should include financial wellness, mental health support, stress reduction, workplace ergonomics and nutrition education. Implementing a wellness program can be relatively inexpensive. Reach out to your workforce for program leaders. Offer incentives to your staff who participate.Work in teams and hold each other accountable.
  • Comply with federal and state law: Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, HIPAA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act may influence or impact your program. Consult a human resources expert or lawyer prior to implementing your wellness program.
  • Reevaluate your program: Survey your workforce quarterly and be open and responsive to all feedback. Constantly assess your employee's needs and preferences. Collect metrics and review data annually.

Although seemingly overwhelming, implementing a workplace wellness program can produce limitless financial, cultural and employee engagement rewards.

Diane Abramson is the director of HR consulting at LDT Human Capital Solutions, a sister company of Springborn Staffing, located in Portland. She can be reached at

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