green plants on soil
green plants on soil

You have offered some wonderful wellness programs that you know have worked well for other companies, or maybe even have been published to show a solid return to investment. You did your part to assess your company needs, and implement what you thought would make an impact.

Naturally you expected that the wellness program offerings would be gobbled up by your employees… Your lunch and learn sessions for improved diet would be a huge hit, your employees would all be in the fitness club reimbursement program, or the diabetes clinic you set up three months in a row. But that’s not the case? What’s wrong? Why isn’t it working?

You’re Not Alone

In fact, there has been a torrent of debate on whether workplace wellness programs work as well as the reported ROI studies say they do. This has resulted in the development of best practices, and then further review on what is needed to ensure your wellness program investment is realized.  A benchmark study was published in 2007 in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine that provided best practices based on the success of a number of US companies that had succeeded in improving their workforce health and subsequently increased their competitive advantage. These best practices remain relevant, but with the emergence of new models of workplace wellness programs, the researchers updated their study.

Recent Findings

Earlier this year, an update to that study was published, that included a review of recent workplace wellness programs and related research publications including economic evaluations. The resulting advice to employers might explain why some wellness programs aren’t working.

Here’s what you need to make your cost and effort worthwhile:

  • A culture of health. That means strong leadership, supportive environment, and engagement at all levels of the organization. This will require time and consistent effort to achieve and maintain.
  • Comprehensive program approach. Your offerings should address individual, environmental, and policy needs and be consistent across the organization. For example, if you have education programs to address work life balance and educate staff for better mental health resiliency, then your policy and practice should discourage consistent lengthy overtime; if you want to reduce high blood pressure in your workforce, ensure that your cafeteria has healthy options at a reasonable price and your workers can easily access and adopt exercise routines.
  • Effective communication strategy and links to business goals. For workplace wellness programs to be effective, everyone needs to know about them, and progress and evaluation should be strategically communicated.
  • Ongoing evaluation and evolution. Effective workplace wellness programs require ongoing review, evaluation, and adjustments.

There are a number of other key elements and best practice advice, but these four items are the take home message for employers. Workplace wellness is  worth the investment if it is comprehensive and extends from a culture of health.

Diana Vissers is the Founder and Director of Corporate Services at Work to Wellness Rehabilitation Inc. – a Canadian company providing expert disability management services to Canadian customers. She is in the business of making your place of business healthy, safe and productive. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for the latest news and updates on health, wellness and integrated disability management.