Wellness. Wellbeing. Whatever kind of program is implemented, employers both big and small have a profitable interest in keeping employees healthy and engaged both at work and at home, but may lack the insight on creating a successful package.

In addition to an expectation to lower employee health costs, a majority of employers say their wellness programs have had a positive impact on job satisfaction, workplace commitment, turnover and absenteeism, according to a study from Transamerica Center for Health Studies and Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at UC Berkeley entitled “Finding Fit: Implementing Workplace Wellness Programs Successfully.”

However, while more than six in 10 employers (62%) say they offer wellness programs, only 40% of employees (with employer-based coverage) say they work for an employer who offers a wellness program.

To gain insight into this difference in perception and to give employers tools to shape wellness programs for their employees, the two organizations collaborated to release an evidence-based, workplace wellness program employer guide.

Free for employers, the guide focuses on the types of wellness programs that have been shown to be effective, particularly for small and medium business, and provides a step-by-step process for identifying one or more wellness programs that fit each employer's unique characteristics, helping employers assess which wellness program is most compatible with their day-to-day realities and would encourage employee engagement.

This guide helps HR leaders choose a wellness program that meets their employees’ needs given their time and resources.

“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,” says Cristina Banks, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces at UC Berkeley. “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.”

Identifying the types of programs are important for employers looking to find the right fit, and the guide details the different levels of involvement each type of program would require from an employer and/or employee.

Eight different wellness program types are identified in the guide, and are 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

“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.” Banks adds.

In addition, the guide helps HR in identifying wellness program facilitators (such as organizational fits) and barriers (such as time constraints), strategies to enhance or overcome those facilitators/barriers and external resources, including assessments, toolkits, planning guides, educational articles, wellness technology and webinars.

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