Wellness programs can have a variety of positive effects in the workplace — encouraging healthier behaviors, improving employee morale, reducing absenteeism and lower health care costs — and branding that program can make it more successful.

Branding a wellness program has three benefits, says Charlie Estey, executive vice president of business development at Interactive Health. It aligns the program with company, gives the program credibility and gives it value, he says.

Branding not only gives a program a name, it also provides an identity, says Beena Thomas, VP, client solutions at Optum. “It will absolutely increase employee engagement,” she says.

Having a goal for the brand and the wellness program is essential, Estey says, such as embracing good health or preventing diabetes. The leadership plays a crucial role, he says, and should email employees introducing the new brand. “The C-suite needs to be behind the brand.” Once they are, Estey says, employees are more apt to participate. That’s especially true for unions, he says. “It really needs the union endorsement … otherwise it will be ignored.”

Know your workforce

Knowing your workforce is key — a business made up of younger women will most likely have different interests than male auto workers. “You have to understand your target population,” says Kathy Meacham, vice president of account management at HealthFitness. That includes age, demographic and what motivates the employees.

Employers need to understand what barriers are preventing their employees from living a healthy lifestyle — lack of time is cited most often, Meacham says. The brand also should incorporate business needs, Estey says, like focusing on sleep health if employees are working during early-morning and/or late-night hours.

Wellness programs have plenty of competition from sources like fast food chains marketing an opposite message, Meacham says. “It’s so easy to not be healthy,” she says. That’s why a company must have an effective brand for its wellness program.

Using a variety of communication outlets — text messaging, email, onsite promotion — helps reach as much of the population as possible, says Shawn Moore, senior vice president of consumer engagement at ActiveHealth Management. “Communications serve to reinforce the value of the programs and support the culture of health,” she says.

Today, many employers are buying a URL paired with their brand name to link it to a website, Meacham says. Some companies even have mascots. “It can take on a life of its own,” Estey says.

Brokers’ role

Brokers can help consumers navigate the variety of plans available and “help individuals understand the better health options,” Meacham says. Given the popularity of wellness programs, brokers should be helping clients implement these kinds of plans, Estey says. “There’s no question that prevention is here to stay, and it can differentiate them in what they’re offering,” he says.

One of the biggest values of a wellness program is educating employees to make smart choices when it comes to matters like nutrition and managing stress, Thomas says. “That empowerment leads employees to make healthy choices,” she says. “You can’t sell the product of health. It’s a strategy for the future.”

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