Insurance One Management, Inc.

Making Wellness Programs Work for You:

In Employee Benefits on September 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm

In study after study, employee wellness programs have been shown to reduce absenteeism, staff turnover rates and healthcare costs, while improving productivity and morale.

Wellness programs run the gamut from a monthly newsletter with wellness information to health risk assessments backed up by a full menu of exercise and wellness classes, with a plethora of options in between. For these programs to run properly and produce results, they must have a clear operating plan with an attainable and measurable goal. Where to start and what to offer?

If you’re ready to take the plunge, start with a company wellness committee, responsible for:

  • Establishing goals and objectives
  • Creating a detailed action plan
  • Ensuring employee participation
  • Getting and maintaining management support
  • Managing the wellness program
  • Evaluating effectiveness and making changes

You can start modestly with a weekly email with links to healthy lifestyle articles or host a weekly “bring your own healthy lunch day.” If you can, offer free or discounted fitness club memberships or incentives for participation in outside smoking cessation or weight loss programs. You will increase a program’s likelihood of working if you authorize employees to participate during work hours, such as on their lunch break.

Some organizations offer free health screenings and health risk assessments for free to help employees understand what’s going on with their health and what they can do to improve it.

Penalties or incentives?

Rewarding employees’ achievements is a great way to keep them excited and living a healthier lifestyle. Offering incentives like gift cards, certificates of achievement, and even a day off work can be effective ways to keep participation levels up.

But if participation is still lagging, consider what many companies are now doing — assessing penalties for not participating, on the theory that some people may be more motivated to take action if they risk losing $100 vs. gaining $100.

An annual health care trends survey by Hewitt Associates Inc. found that 47 percent of employers either already use or plan to use financial penalties during the next three to five years for employees who do not participate in certain health improvement programs. Of those companies, 81 percent say they will penalize employees through higher health insurance premium contributions. About 17 percent said they may increase deductibles, while another 17 percent said they were considering higher out-of-pocket expenses as penalties.

When asked what types of behaviors or programs they were planning on penalizing, 64 percent cited smoking, while 50 percent said they would penalize those not participating in disease management or lifestyle behavior programs. Indicating that they may assess penalties in more than one area, 45 percent of employers responding to the survey said they would penalize workers for not participating in biometric screenings.

Although a growing number of employers are leaning toward penalties, the majority of survey respondents continue to use financial incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs. This year, about 63 percent are offering employees cash incentives for completing health risk questionnaires, up from 35 percent in 2009. In addition, 37 percent of employers are providing cash incentives to employees who participate in health improvement and wellness programs, up from 29 percent in 2009.

The key for any organization is to find the right mix of strategies and plan designs that will motivate employees to be healthier. We can help you tailor a wellness program to your needs, goals and budget. Please contact us for more information at 1-800-373-4255, 8-5, CT, M-F.


The information presented and conclusions within are based solely upon our best judgment and analysis.  It is not guaranteed information, but is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.  It does not necessarily reflect all available data, and is provided with the understanding that we are not rendering legal, accounting, or tax advice.  Any web links/addresses are current at time of publication but subject to change.  This material is being reproduced with the permission of the publisher via a paid subscription by Insurance One Management, Inc. dba Don Crawford & Associates, Midland, TX.

©2010 Smart’s Publishing – Employee Benefits Report – Volume 8, Number 9 – All Rights Reserved. – Website:


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