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A Strong Wellness Program Means Healthier Employees
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By Smart Workplace Practices

Is participation sagging in your employee wellness program? Don't have one but you'd like to?

To encourage participation in an employee wellness program:

* Provide what your employees want and will use. Don't give discounts to a health club if most employees would really prefer a free on-site aerobics class.

* Make it easy to participate. Consider the cost, time of day, how far they have to drive, child care. Offer flexible hours so employees can exercise. If you have an empty room at your workplace, turn it into a mini-gym with mats and exercise equipment.

* Offer incentives. Offer a free T-shirt, or let workers accumulate points toward other fitness-related items.

* Maintain a culture of wellness. Examples: Have healthy food choices in the cafeteria or vending machines...a no-smoking policy...a ban on alcohol at your functions...a walking path inside and outside your building.

* Educate. Keep a library of wellness information in an employee snack bar or lounge. Designate one bulletin board for health-related news. Hold seminars on healthy eating, weight loss, stress-management, smoking cessation. Free speakers may be available to you from associations like the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association or American Lung Association.

Your wellness program demonstrates that you value your employees.Remind employees regularly how a healthier lifestyle will benefit them. Use your newsletter, memos, paycheck stuffers.

A healthy wellness program benefits you, too. Healthy employees take fewer sick days, don't cost as much to insure, and are generally happier and more productive workers. And a wellness program is good for recruiting and retaining employees.

Reduction in health care costs due to fitness programs has been documented--particularly by employers who have had programs in place since the early '80s. Savings vary, but can amount to three or more times greater than program costs.

One pitfall to avoid: Be careful to only reward participation or achievement if it's possible for every employee to participate or to achieve your goals. You may risk lawsuits if your incentive system
seems to discriminate against workers protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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