Earning a return on Investment on Workplace Health Promotion?
Evidence-based programs that are adequately resourced, multi-component, theory based and well- implemented have been shown to produce significant cost savings which outweigh the expense of providing the programs. The following are crucial mechanisms to ensure your programs will be successful, and achieve a return on investment (ROI).
Multi-level leadership support
Worksite health promotion must be embraced as a core value defining the organization’s culture. Include wellness (physical, emotional, and financial health) in the organization’s core business strategy. With that strategy, worksite health promotion initiatives will focus on yielding results that drive behaviors that are essential to improving the effectiveness of the entire organization.
Members of executive leadership must buy into the initiative completely and ensure that objectives are being met. Leaders can create a wellness related goal for the organization as a whole, or commit to a wellness goal for themselves and report their progress of that goal. Take it one step further and tie and incentive to the achievement of that goal. When members of the C-suite make time for wellness, employees will feel less self-conscious about taking a fitness break, and will feel that it is encouraged, rather than viewed as wasting company time. Support for healthy behaviors must not only by accessible, but also acceptable.
It is very important that managers understand the importance of wellness as a business strategy. Communication and messages regarding wellness can be emphasized by managers as they have additional face time with staff. They are able to communicate the importance of a well workforce and how it fits into the business strategy. They can reinforce the strategy, and how employees, including themselves, should contribute to the goals set by leadership. Encourage managers to adopt a personal health goal as one of their unit’s business goals.
Communicate Wellness across the organization
Communication is the key to engaging employees in worksite health promotion programs. Without engagement, participation rates are inadequate and without sufficient participation, success is unattainable.
Communication materials and messages should be tailored based on the language, literacy, learning styles and generation of the employees. Think about what your program will do for your employees. If your employees know you are doing worksite health promotion because you want them and their families to have healthy, happy lives, they will feel valued. Communicate that it is important that they live a healthy lifestyle so they can spend time with grandkids, walk their daughter down the aisle, or stop taking their cholesterol medication.
Communicate early and often to give ample time for employees to receive the information and fulfill any requirements to participate. Give clear explanations and expectations to staff. A deadline takes away any confusion as to what needs to be done, just make sure to communicate well in advance. Create a brand. Developing a recognizable and consistent logo and slogan help employees to easily identify the program.
Use multiple modes of communication to convey the message of wellness to your organization. Utilize company newsletters, intranet sites, screen savers, or develop a wellness website. Grassroots communication such as personalized letters to the home, posters, brochures, flyers still prove to be effective.
Communicate through face-to-face interactions with employees at staff meetings, new employee orientation, or employee events. Create videos to announce new programs or events and post to websites, or show on screens throughout the workplace.
Wellness ambassadors are another way to communicate as well as receive feedback on strengths or opportunities for the program. The ambassadors also act as champions to the program and encourage participation.
Hospitals are in a unique position because their physicians can add support to workplace health promotion. Doctors can recommend participation in workplace health promotion programs, encourage employees and educate them about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. They can also encourage participation in a health risk assessment, biometrics screenings, health coaching, disease management, or other programs being offered by their employer. It is proven that physicians are the most trusted source of health information and utilizing the internal resource is an advantage hospitals can make use of.
Health appraisal system
It is impossible to measure ROI without baseline data. There are two main reasons to collect data from health risk assessments and biometrics screenings. First, by stratifying the risks of the employees participating in your wellness program into pools of risk, measurements can be monitored for percent changes in risk. Employees that move from high-risk to moderate-risk or from high- risk to low-risk are a direct result that the health of your employees is improving. The second is to identify risk areas for your worksite health promotion programs.
Many health plans offer a health risk assessment that measures behaviors that can contribute to declining health. A biometric screening that measures height, weight, blood pressure, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol and glucose given on-site can raise employee’s awareness of their current health status. In some instances, a biometric screening can save lives. An employee may discover they have an extremely high blood pressure or glucose level and are able to alert their doctor before it escalates and becomes serious, and costly.
The screening also gives an opportunity for education when results are explained by a health coach. Employers should obtain de-identified health risk assessment results and biometrics data to help drive health promotion program decisions.
comprehensive Program Design
Develop and coordinate a clear, comprehensive program including a mission and vision; goals, objectives and measurement strategies for each. Evaluate each program for participation, participant satisfaction, knowledge and or behavior change if applicable. Create the plan with overall evaluation in mind.
Target outcomes to reduce the main risk factors identified in your initial assessment, however don’t reinvent the wheel. Programs are available that have proven to be successful. Research best practices implemented by other employers and replicate their initiatives, or use the concepts of the program, and modify them to meet the needs, values and norms of your employees. Your organization may be providing programs and services to employers in your community. Make use of those programs internally.
Make use of community and internal resources. County health departments, chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations such as the American Cancer Society have resources available.
Participate in and sponsor employees in community walks,/runs, organize sports teams, or sponsor your own 5K. Utilize experts within your employee population such as yoga instructors, massage therapists, runners, or walkers that would welcome the opportunity to lead a program.
Multiple Program components
Multi-component health promotion programs that target a variety of risk factors simultaneously realize the best ROI. Focusing on a specific risk factor creates difficulty in showing cost savings because the opportunity for participation is too focused and narrows the amount of employees who are eligible.
Health risks are often tied to one another. If someone is overweight, he or she is likely to have high blood pressure, high blood glucose, and high cholesterol. It makes more sense to implement multiple programs that address all factors which allows for a larger opportunity for engagement.
Offer a variety of programs not only focusing on physical health, but also financial and emotional health. Offering 401K assistance, financial advisors, employee assistance programs, life coaches and stress management are important to include in workplace health promotion programs.
Provide programs that reach all risk categories identified in an initial risk assessment. These risk categories could range from hypertension, to weight management, sleep deprivation to stress. It is just as important to keep your healthy employees healthy as it is to reduce the risk factors in your higher risk employees.
Lifestyle management and disease management programs to guide employees in the process of health behavior change.
On-site programs including lunch and learn classes, coaching and health awareness campaigns allow for employees to participate because the program is brought to them.
On-site fitness centers or fitness classes, walking clubs, running clubs, cooking classes can engage the healthy and at-risk populations.
Promote each program or topic separately. Although the program may be available year round, the information and details may get lost in communications about all of the opportunities available. If you focus on a program or two during different periods of the year, it may help to improve participation and engagement in that program.
Build Wellness into your Benefit Plan
Ideally, employees would buy into worksite health promotion to increase their wellness. However, that has not proven to be the case. Incentives are a key to increase the participation in wellness programs initially.
Provide a set dollar amount employees can apply toward their premium, or make a contribution to employees health savings account if they engage in the program. These are budget neutral techniques to providing incentives. The incentive could also be provided as cash, gifts, or a charitable donation for completing certain requirements.
Requirements could include participation in a health risk appraisal and biometric screening, as it is important to gather the data on all participants. Other successful requirements include meeting with a health coach to discuss the results of the health risk appraisal, visiting a physician for an annual physical, participation in at least one employee sponsored program, or engaging in an outreach program by a wellness or disease management coach.
Create smart Health care consumers
Empower employees to do their research when it comes to health and health care. As with any other large purchase, it is important your employees know all of the facts before purchasing a health care service, such as lab work, surgery, or imaging services. Educate employees about self care, appropriate times to use different health care facilities and the right questions to ask of their physician. Modifying your benefit plan to encourage employees to use the best health care products by lowering co pays for those that have proven to demonstrate the best results and quality can also be helpful to encourage smart health care consumers.
Increasing Participation and sustaining engagement
A combination of all of the strategies discussed above will lead to engagement and participation. It is known that lack of employee engagement is one of the biggest obstacles to changing health behaviors. Discover what motivates your employees to change their behaviors and utilize those intrinsic motivators in your programming. Recognize staff for their individual achievements. Highlight them in a newsletter or at an all staff meeting. Extrinsic motivators like cash and gifts are important, but once the program is in place, and goals are being met, it is the hope that the intrinsic benefits become the main motivation. Making the healthy behaviors easy and accessible and building a culture of health are crucial in getting employees engaged.
implement Policies and environmental changes
A corporate culture of wellness is a sign of success for workplace health promotion programs. According to CDC “building a culture of health involves all levels of the organization and establishes the workplace health program as a routine part of business operations aligned with overall business goals. The results of this culture change include engaged and empowered employees, an impact on health care costs, and improved worker productivity.”
When implementing a business strategy to promote wellness, it is important the workplace environment supports the objectives. Providing healthy foods whenever it is offered by the organization including: cafeterias, vending machines, meetings and business related events. Allow employees to have an extended lunch or break if they are going to be using the time for physical activity. Implement policies that encourage work/life balance, encourage employees to utilize their vacation time. Offer wellness programming on work time. And again, not only make these environmental changes and policies accessible, but acceptable to use regularly.
Share your wellness culture with the community. Hospitals, health systems and their employees are critical influencers in their communities because of their leadership and mission. The American Hospital Association’s Call to Action: Creating a Culture of Health states, “it is paramount for hospital and health system employees to lead the way and serve as role models for healthy living and fitness for their communities. Hospital health and wellness strategies and tactics are crucial to providing the environment, resources, programs, and incentives for hospital employees to serve as such role models.”
Hospitals play a major role in communities. In most cases, hospitals are the largest employer in the community. The hospital becomes the main source of health care when employees and spouses are covered under the hospital’s medical plan.
Physicians and hospitals are known to be a resource for community members when it comes to health and healthy lifestyles. It is important to extend your culture of health to your community. Invite the community to join your wellness activities, such as physical activity clubs, education sessions and health fairs.
Offer your expertise and services to local employers. Food service directors and dieticians could teach cooking classes or provide healthy lunch solutions to worksites in your community. Nurses can hold education classes regarding heart health. This could also be an opportunity to obtain revenue for the hospital.
If your hospital provides community health programs, or programs to outside employers, it is important to offer the same programs within your hospital employee population.