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Refreshing Insights

Updated July 2021

For years, many proactive employers have been making efforts to mitigate the risks of rising healthcare costs by implementing employee wellness programs.

The theory behind the strategy, of course,  is that healthier employees require fewer medical expenses which leads to lower healthcare costs, and over time this inevitably results in lower, more stable insurance premiums. 

Employers have found, however, that such programs not only improve health and lower healthcare costs, but also boost employee morale and productivity. 

If you are thinking about adding a wellness program to your benefits offerings this year, here are a few things to consider. 

What Might an Employee Wellness Program Look Like?

A wellness program can complement an established health benefits plan by incentivizing individuals to focus on changing behaviors that reduce the likelihood of health issues and expensive claims — especially those associated with chronic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and others.

There are various forms of wellness programs that a company can adopt. Some insurance carriers offer highly structured plans through an online portal with educational materials and quizzes, and work with wearable fitness trackers to measure activity each month. Participants can earn points for reaching certain milestones and getting preventative screenings, and they can also earn gift cards respective to their achievements.

Many employers take their wellness programs further by working with a consultant to develop a homegrown approach. This may include offering walking trails, fitness classes and standing desks, or replacing sugary snacks and beverages in vending machines with healthier options. Others provide educational “lunch & learns” on effective methods for weight loss, eliminating tobacco use, nutrition, emotional health and more.

A good wellness program can actually improve worker morale and provide team bonding opportunities with a little friendly competition thrown in to make it fun. Consider a weight loss challenge, yoga classes over the lunch hour, healthy snack options in the breakroom or paying employee entry fees for a local 5K.

A Strategic Approach to Health BenefitsThe possibilities are endless. The most effective programs, however, start with an assessment of a company’s employee population to examine the greatest potential health risks; then, customize a plan to help those who need it the most.

A Wellness Program Can Reduce Healthcare Costs

The reality is that health insurance premiums aren’t going down, and a wellness program is one of the best ways to keep costs from escalating out of control. A wellness program is meant to serve as a part of your strategic long-range forecast. Your return on investment may not happen overnight, but several studies have shown that for every dollar spent on a wellness program, a company saves an average of $3.27 because of reduced healthcare costs. Those savings are significant!

Consider the impact that eliminating even a single claim could have. For example, what if you have an employee who hasn’t had a health screening in several years and, as a result of a wellness program incentive, schedules an appointment where it’s discovered that he has high cholesterol and is at a major risk of a heart attack? Preventing a potential heart attack will not only save thousands of dollars in claims; it could reduce time away from work, minimize the employee’s out-of-pocket expenses and, most importantly, potentially save his life.

Implementing a Program

Developing an effective wellness program takes time and commitment to create lasting change. If a company chooses to develop its own in-house program, it will need to have a dedicated staff member who takes responsibility for getting it up and running and then keeping it going — to serve as a champion. That person will need to also oversee any associated administrative tasks, work with outside parties to set up biometric health screenings and coordinate any additional activities associated with the program.

Because of the time commitment necessary to do it right, many organizations choose to work with an HR services provider that can make recommendations, help establish a robust program and handle most of the leg work.

Get Started

The benefits of establishing a wellness program are clear, but setting one up for your company doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Reach out to the professionals at McClone for a complimentary assessment where we’ll talk through your specific HR needs. Even small steps toward building a healthier employee population can reap big rewards down the road.

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A collection of articles from the McClone team with the helpful knowledge and insights to ensure your organization is well protected.