A wellness program is a noble endeavor designed to improve the general health of employees and other stakeholders within an organization. The general increase in health problems and aliments at the societal level has been the center of intense scrutiny and debate during the past decade or so. The rampant levels of obesity, heart problems, cholesterol, high blood pressure and strokes across all age groups is a major cause for concern. Even manyyoung adults are now falling prey to a lifestyle that is increasingly devoid of concern for health.
In many spheres, the problems are not limited to physical health, but extend to the realm of mental health, as well. Anxiety and stress are a part of everyday life and have become as chronic and embedded as any other ailment.
This is one of the major reasons behind the rise of the promotion and subsequent adoption of programs among business organizations. These wellness programs aim to encourage physical activity among employees, seeking to mitigate stress and emotional issues faced by employees. Not only for-profit businesses, but also not-for-profits and non-business organizations are increasingly developing wellness programs of their own.
The primary focus of any corporate wellness program is on the employee, given that the presence of a large proportion of unhealthy employees leads to a decline in the productivity and efficiency of the corporation itself.Most wellness programs include elements of physical activity, education relating to nutrition, health evaluation & screening, and coaching. These various elements are all aimed at making employees more aware of potential health-related issues and how to improve them.
Despite these programs’ increasing popularity among companies, there are certain inherent challenges and obstacles in their successful adoption. The biggest challenge is that of how to ensure high levels of worker participation. Without proper implementation on the part of the company, participation rates in wellness programs at companies usually remains fairly low.
One of the biggest reasons that participation rates in wellness programs remain low has to do with employees’ desire to invest time in the program. Another common concern shared by many employees has to do with that of privacy. For example, many employees wonder how their rather detailed health information will be used by the company.
Another challenge in keeping participation rates high is that employees are not made sufficiently aware of the potential health benefits offered by the programs. Other employees simply lack the motivation to try to stay healthy.
The best way to overcome these challenges is for the company to make sure that the wellness programs are staffed and run by competent, energetic individuals who can make a personal connection with each employee. And, the benefits of participation need to be well-explained to employees, and repeatedly so over time. Assuming that the employees should just “get it” is the first big mistake that employers make when they implement wellness programs.
Employers also face challenges upon implementation. For example, a company considering starting a wellness program needs to be sure of its ability to commit the required resources to its design, implementation and ongoing operation. Companies also need to be able to be ready to sustain the programs for a period of many months or even years before realizing the positive impact that they have on the organization.
This is even more true for small and midsize companies. Smaller companies may find it a challenge to implement wellness programs due to the startup costs involved. For these companies to be successful in launching and then sustaining such programs, they need to create a clear model of how and when these programs will “pay for themselves” by affecting the bottom line. By creating such a model and then tracking the program’s progress, even small companies can come to realize the benefits of such programs.
Employee wellness programs offer an array of benefits to companies and employees alike. By addressing potential challenges ahead of time, companies can be better prepared to implement them successfully.