Wellness Programs Grow in Wake of Pandemic

Employers have often long struggled to boost participation in their wellness programs, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that as people started looking for ways to better care for themselves both physically and emotionally.

The pandemic added fuel to the country’s mental health crisis and more people than ever are seeking out counseling to cope with the stresses of life.

Others stopped taking care of their overall health, by exercising less and drinking too much and putting off regular checkups, leaving them worse off health-wise than they were before the pandemic.

Wellness programs can bridge the gap between employees’ overall health and your group health insurance. While the latter covers their medical and pharmaceutical needs, these programs can help them maintain healthy lifestyles, and can also help them better deal with stressors in their lives.

On top of that, they can improve employee satisfaction and boost their productivity.

The benefits to your organization

A five-year study by Go365, a personalized wellness and rewards program, found that highly engaged participants:

  • Paid an average of $116 less in health care than low-engaged members.
  • Compared with low-engaged members, reported 55% fewer “unhealthy days,” which can be an indicator of reduced productivity, absenteeism or presenteeism.
  • Had an average of 35% fewer emergency room visits and 30% fewer hospital admissions than low-engaged members.

Wellness programs continue growing in number and you may want to put together a list and survey your employees about which of the programs they would most like to see. Some are more expensive than others, and some costs are negligible.

These programs typically aim to promote mental and physical health and fitness, and run the gamut. Some of the most common wellness programs include:

  • Gym memberships,
  • Smoking cessation programs,
  • Diabetes management programs,
  • Weight loss programs, and preventative health screenings,
  • Stress management,
  • Parent coaching and support,
  • Recreational programs such as company-sponsored sports teams,
  • Nutritional and food guidance programs, and
  • Financial security programs, which can include access to budgeting resources, debt management tools, student loan counseling, emergency savings plans, and more.

You can also provide incentives such as premium discounts and cash rewards for participating in a program or achieving certain health goals, like for weight loss or stopping smoking.

Getting it started

Since the pandemic started, more employers have started offering virtual wellness sessions for their employees, while those with existing programs have bolstered them with new ones, such as financial wellness.

But to succeed, the programs need adequate levels of management and employee buy-in. Make sure you are choosing programs your employees actually want and will use. Don’t waste time and energy on wellness initiatives that they don’t find engaging or beneficial.

Instead, survey your staff to find out which wellness plans they find the most appealing.

Also, it’s important to stick to your budget and not to overpromise what you can deliver to your employees. Be realistic as you explore your choices.

The expense can be worth it if it’s tailored correctly. Employees who are healthy and happy have higher levels of productivity than those who are not. Wellness programs also lead to increased engagement, improved morale and retention, and reduced health risks.

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