Nearly half of all employers in the US offer some type of employer wellness program or health promotion, according to an American Journal of Health Promotion study. A well-executed wellness program can boost productivity, reduce healthcare costs, and increase employee retention.
Employer wellness programs also make employees feel more valued and appreciated, often resulting in higher motivation and company loyalty.
An employer’s wellness programs has long been identified as having the potential to help mitigate chronic health risks. Unfortunately, not all employers experience smooth program execution. Barriers can develop that discourage workers from participating in wellness programs or from taking advantage of health-care incentives. These barriers can range from poor communication to a lack of incentives.
Great wellness programs are a strategic necessity for managing a workforce’s productivity and retention. However, it is important to recognize barriers that could develop when adopting a new employer wellness program.
Caring About Employee Well-Being Is Key to Recruiting and Retaining Talent
Most employers understand the importance of increasing overall wellness in the workplace. Wellness programs have the power to influence employee productivity and retention, as well as improve attendance and employee engagement.
There are several benefits that job seekers look for when applying for a position, such as a fair salary, flexibility, an appropriate work-life balance, and opportunities for growth. Access to health and wellness perks is also a key consideration when deciding to accept a job offer.
According to a recent Forbes article, 87 percent of employees say that they choose employers based on the health and wellness programs offered by the organization. In addition, 45 percent of employees in small- and medium-sized businesses claim that wellness programs would encourage them to stay with their employer longer.
Offering an attractive wellness program shows employees that their employers are invested in their health and well-being. A Business Group on Health survey found that nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of employees at companies with 1,000 or more employees reported experiencing high or moderate levels of stress.
Employer-sponsored wellness programs can help alleviate employee stress and have a positive impact on the business as a whole. Wellness programs that positively impact staff stress levels often lead to less absenteeism and greater job satisfaction.
Common Barriers to Well-Being Programs
While workplace wellness plans are in high demand, barriers still exist that prevent many employees from participating. Lack of employee participation in wellness plans is not uncommon. Employees value their time and many are not able or willing to participate due to time limitations. According to a UnitedHealthcare survey, 63 percent of employees admitted that they were unwilling to devote more than one hour a day to improve their health and well-being.
In an attempt to increase participation in employer wellness programs, some employers offer rewards or incentives, such as company swag, discounted gym membership, or even cash payments. However, when incentives are insufficient, employees may not be compelled to participate in the program.
There are several other reasons why employees may choose not to participate in an employer wellness program, such as a lack of interest, inconvenience, lack of funds, or concerns about privacy. Some employees choose not to participate due to a lack of management participation. Workers often feel more motivated to act when they see that management is supportive. Management can help make this commitment by publicly campaigning about the program and providing adequate funding.
Communication About Well-Being Programs Is Lacking
Companies often implement wellness programs in the workplace as a way to reduce the rising costs of healthcare. Unfortunately, a lack of communication can prevent employers from seeing the results they seek. Employers that adopt wellness programs must also develop strong communication strategies if they wish to achieve their goals.
One area of concern is communication between management and employees. When businesses take the time to actively listen and engage with their workforce, they are better able to understand what barriers exist. While it may seem logical to provide employees with incentives like free yoga sessions or discounted gym memberships, many employees are not able to take advantage of these types of perks.
Instead, employers must engage with workers to see how they can best provide support tailored to their needs. For example, employees who are busy with family and other commitments may need help in other areas of health care, such as finding a primary care physician or securing transportation to and from appointments. Maintaining an open line of communication with employees can help eliminate certain barriers that may discourage employees from participating in wellness programs.
Designing Better Incentives
Incentives play a key role in motivating employees to play a more direct role in maintaining their physical and mental health. According to a RAND Employer Survey, employers that did not use incentives in their wellness program strategy reported a median participation rate of just 20 percent. In comparison, employers that used either monetary or nonmonetary incentives saw a median participation rate of 40 percent.
There are many types of incentives that employers can offer to increase wellness program participation, such as flextime. Flextime eliminates the standard nine-to-five workweek, giving employees more adaptability over their schedules. In addition, allowing employees to work from home either part-time or full-time can also act as an incentive. Many workplaces find that employees who work from home are actually more productive as they have greater control over when and how they work.
There is no one way to design wellness program incentives. Every business is unique with employees of various ages and needs. Consider incentives that would benefit the majority of your employees, such as learning opportunities, team events, family care programs, or awards for good performance. Encouraging employees to take regular breaks to avoid burnout can also motivate employees and inspire them to take better care of their health.
Generic Well-Being Programs Are Restricting
When it comes to employer wellness programs, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Implementing a generic wellness program can be restrictive and discourage employees from participating due to limitations and inflexibility.
When developing a wellness program for a workforce, employers must consider the individual needs of workers. Incentives should cover a wide range of lifestyles, including single employees and employees with families. Consider incentives that may help with unique problems that workers may be facing, such as obesity or chronic illnesses.
Incentives may be offered that help employees work through specific problems, such as one that helps employees quit smoking. Others may encourage healthy activities, such as incentives that promote cycling to work or eating healthy.
Mental Health Shouldn’t Be an Afterthought
Maintaining positive mental health is critical for employees as it allows them to better cope with challenges and setbacks they may experience at work or home. Unfortunately, many employees struggle with their mental health which has a direct impact on their performance at work.
According to an Oracle press release, 85 percent of employees report that their mental health problems at work have negatively impacted their home life. In addition, 68 percent admitted that they would rather speak with a robot about their mental health concerns like anxiety and stress at work than their manager.
While technology can play a positive role in helping employees better manage their mental health, employers can also do their part to make mental health a familiar topic in the workplace. This can be achieved by implementing incentives related to mental health in an employer wellness program.
Promoting well-being is a critical component in improving employee mental health. Employers can support the mental health of employees by building as much flexibility as possible into employee schedules, encouraging employees to use their vacation time, and providing employees with the appropriate resources when facing mental health issues.
Managers Need To Be On board With Physical and Emotional Health
Management teams are trained to deal with a wide range of challenges that may develop in the workplace. However, one area where many managers lack deals with the physical and emotional health of employees. Management should serve as a source of support for employee mental health and overall well-being. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
According to an IBM research report, 80 percent of employers say that they support the physical and emotional health of their workforce. In comparison, just 46 percent of employees report that they feel this support from management. When managers get on board with physical and emotional health, everyone can experience the benefits.
There are many ways that managers can positively impact employees’ physical and emotional health一valuing employees’ time, listening more to employees, and creating a safe space where employees can feel comfortable coming to them to talk about their health concerns. Practicing transparency is also important in building a trusting relationship where employees feel supported and valued.
Design a Well-Being Program That Your Employees Will Love
Employees often prioritize their jobs over their health, resulting in chronic physical and mental health issues. In turn, poor health can have a direct impact on employee performance and motivation in the workplace. Wellness programs have the advantage of helping to create more productive employees, less office stress, fewer absences due to illnesses, and fewer work-related injuries.
Designing a wellness program that employees are excited to participate in can be tricky. It is important for employers to set goals that benefit both the company and staff, as well as to gain feedback from employees about what they would like to see in a program. To learn more about how to successfully adopt an employer wellness program, request a consultation with the experts at New City Insurance.