New Workplace Wellness Employer Guide Available

A free guide for employers to identify wellness programs that fit their unique workplace and employee characteristics is available from Transamerica Center for Health Studies and UC Berkeley Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces.

In addition to an expectation of lower employee health costs, a majority of employers say their wellness programs have a positive impact on job satisfaction, workplace commitment, turnover, and absenteeism. While more than six in 10 employers (62 percent) say they offer wellness programs, only 40 percent of employees (with employer-based coverage) say they work for an employer who offers a wellness program, according to Transamerica Center for Health Studies® (TCHS) 2017 Consumer and Employer surveys.

workplace wellness programs
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To gain insight into this difference in perception and to give employers tools to shape wellness programs for their employees, TCHS and the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces (ICHW) at UC Berkeley have collaborated to release an evidence-based workplace wellness program employer guide. Finding Fit: Implementing Workplace Wellness Programs Successfully, a resource for organizations offering wellness programs for their employees, is now available free of charge.

The guide, which has an emphasis on small and medium organizations, focuses on the types of wellness programs that have been shown to be effective and provides a step-by-step process for identifying one or more wellness programs that fit each employer’s unique characteristics. This approach enables employers to assess which wellness program is most compatible with their day-to-day realities and would encourage employee engagement.

“In this guide, we focused on giving employers the tools to match their workforce and workplace to their wellness program options. Not every wellness program fits every organization,” said Hector De La Torre, executive director of TCHS. “With this approach, employers can promote employee health, increase participation and improve productivity.”

The guide helps organizational leaders choose a wellness program that meets their employees’ needs given their time and resources. Small and medium organizations face a number of limitations due to their size and financial reserves, but employees’ health and well-being needs are a constant regardless of organization size. Employees need a safe, socially supportive and health-promoting work environment that not only supports wellness but also enhances productivity.

“We have looked at the existing literature on wellness programs in general and created a method based on our research for how organization leaders can design an effective wellness strategy that fits their constraints,” said Dr. Cristina Banks, director of the ICHW. “Organization leaders may focus on employee healthcare costs and not know or understand the link between employee wellness and organizational outcomes such as productivity, absenteeism, turnover, and disability. We help company leadership understand how the organization will benefit from employee wellness and how they can find a wellness program that fits their specific circumstances.”

Eight different wellness program types were identified, ordered from low to high employer involvement (and investment) below:

  • Education Programs: Pursued by employees at or outside of work
  • Social Community Building by the Employee: Engagement in social activities to enhance social relationships
  • Social Community Building by the Organization: Employer-led ownership of improving the workforce social community
  • Preventive Care Program (Lite): Health assessments and preventative screening by the insurance vendor
  • Healthy Habit Development (Lite): Organization-led interventions encouraging healthier personal and work-related habits
  • Healthy Habit Development (Enhanced): Physical worksite environment enhancements facilitating healthier workday habits
  • Preventive Care Program (Enhanced): Partnership between healthcare providers and employer leadership to reduce incidence of serious illness and disease
  • Disease Management: Employer investments in on-site medical clinics and/or occupational health programs

Guidance on how to increase participation in wellness programs is also included. The key concept is based on principles of “WIFM,” or “what’s in it for me?” The guide provides information to help employers determine what value a wellness program might have for the employees, plus an extensive list of wellness-related resources.