One side effect of the recession: Cash-strapped employees are eating more fast food, exercising less and ignoring their health, studies show. All the more reason to refocus your wellness efforts. Nine lessons from recent studies:
1. Use wellness as a recruiting, retention tool: 45% of employees consider wellness benefits a reason to stay in their jobs. Their favorite wellness perks: on-site fitness rooms, health club discounts and at-work weight-loss programs.
2. Build in some competition. Team training and friendly contests among employees build in peer pressure and social support, and keep employees engaged in wellness programs, studies show.
3. Don’t reward everyone. Employers get better results by offering financial incentives—such as cash or lower health premiums—only to workers who demonstrate a real commitment to lifestyle changes, a Towers Watson study says.
4. Pay for smoking cessation aids. The CDC estimates 24% of employers offer coverage for smoking cessation help. It costs 10 to 40 cents per month per employee to provide the benefit.
5. Mind mental health. Addressing depression, anxiety, alcoholism and stress can help cut, boost productivity and lower health claims.
6. Remind often about wellness benefits. Segment employees by demographics, such as gender, age and life stage. Then send targeted messages about wellness programs to each group. Use newsletters, e-mail, text messages, web sites, blogs and social networks.
7. Get managers’ support. When managers participate, employees are more likely to join in.
8. Measure results. Six of 10 employers with wellness programs can’t calculate the ROI, says a Fidelity Investments survey. Find four online tools to calculate your ROI at www.theHRSpecialist.com/wellnessROI.
9. Be patient. A Duke University study found it took two years before a corporate weight-loss program started to drive down health care costs. But for every dollar spent on a, companies can save $3.27 on medical costs and $2.73 in absenteeism costs, a Harvard study found.