GUEST POST: Six key aspects of an employee wellness program

Today we have a guest blogger at The Employer Handbook. It’s Joel Cook. Joel is head of strategy at EDP where a team of health & safety consultants work to help businesses improve their employees’ health and wellbeing.

(Want to guest blog on an employment-law topic at The Employer Handbook? Email me).

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As a business owner, you know how important it is to have employees that are content, safe and productive in the work environment. You will also know how a lack of such crucial elements can negatively affect employee productivity and wellbeing. In such cases, an employee wellness program can help to boost employee engagement, health and satisfaction.

And it is an area that is likely to increase in prevalence over the coming years due to the full application of the Affordable Care Act, which gives employers the power to expand upon current wellbeing programs. But where do you begin, and what legal implications do you need to consider? Below we provide six helpful tips to give you a helping hand in starting the process of your wellness program:

  1. Consider employment-law implications: An employee wellness program can open up a can of worms if you don’t properly consider federal anti-discrimination laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act. However, then again, unanswered questions remain about wellness programs, particularly incentive-based ones which reward employees for meeting health targets, as this may be a source of discrimination under certain federal laws. It is therefore important that you consider employment-laws governing your state or sector, and to seek counsel from experts if unsure.
  2. Outline your goals: The goals that make up your employee wellness program should reflect where your business is and where you want it to go. Consider any underlying problems that need to be addressed, such as employee absenteeism, high turnover rate or workplace injuries, and include these in the planning stage. Or perhaps you want to improve health and wellbeing among employees to boost levels of morale and productivity? Whatever your goal(s) make sure that they form a major part of the planning process.
  3. Employee expectations: Don’t just look at things from the inside out. Remember that you are the employer and that, no matter how much you believe that you are part of the team, there is an invisible divide between you and your employees. It is however vital that you identify employee expectations, which can be done via one-on-one interviews and surveys, while suggestion boxes around the office can also prove a fruitful source of knowledge. Prioritise employee expectations and you are one step closer to success.
  4. Promote engagement: If a wellness program is to be a success it needs to promote engagement among employees. This should start from the top-down as closing the gap between staff and management can do wonders for positive energy in the workplace. The programs that you put in place to promote engagement among employees and senior management can range from sporting activities to interactive workshops, but the main feature should always be that the program is tailored to the unique needs of your business.
  5. Incentives: Having incentives in place can mean the difference between success and failure. This is because the challenges posed by an employee wellness program can sometimes be difficult for employees to achieve. If goals are difficult to achieve then this can mean that interest is quickly lost. But by putting realistic and achievable incentives in place you can help your employees to get healthier and increase productivity.
  6. Monitor the program: Once a wellness program is underway it is important that you monitor results and analyze available data. This can give you an indication of where a program is failing and where changes need to be made. Comparing results over time and maintaining the original goals that made up your employee wellness program is much more likely to return beneficial results for employers and employees.
“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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