1. Designate a wellness champion. As human beings, we learn by watching others and patterning our behavior after theirs. That’s why Dr. Carm recommends designating a “wellness champion,” someone visible and well-known throughout the organization who is willing to be in the vanguard of implementing new wellness initiatives. Be sure to choose a person who has the authority to make decisions for the program and who can obtain the necessary funding to turn ideas into reality.
2. Form a wellness committee. Your wellness champion can’t be everywhere all the time, so find others who share the same vision and who are also willing to carry the wellness torch forward. Make sure to include all age ranges in this group. Organize them into a committee with a charter and a budget. They will be empowered, and their excitement will be infectious.
“Don’t choose a group solely composed of ‘health nuts’ who are running marathons,” advises Dr. Carm. “Be sure to also pick some people who have struggled with their wellness behaviors. They will be easier for most people to relate to.”
3. Know your population. If you’ve seen one company, you’ve…seen one company. The fact is healthcare and its associated costs differ dramatically from industry to industry and from organization to organization. (Think about how truck drivers differ from teachers, or how short order cooks differ from lawyers.) Before you get the wellness ball rolling, you need to know what you’re up against. Are your employees mostly sedentary? Are there a lot of smokers? These factors will affect your healthcare costs.
“One key aspect of knowing your population is reviewing your claims with your health insurer on a quarterly basis,” comments Dr. Carm. “You also need to find out the reasons for absences (often, your worker’s comp provider can give you this information) and how many employees are accessing behavioral health providers (check with your employee assistance program vendor). But that’s not enough. By the time claims are filed and employees are absent, the proverbial horse is out of the barn.
“That’s why it’s especially important to assess the current status of your employees’ health,” she continues. “How do you find that out? Use the health risk assessment provided by your insurer and consider holding a health fair where you can have biometrics done (blood pressure, cholesterol level, height and weight, etc.). This will give you real-time information about your population and will reveal what your wellness program should focus on. Since Millennials place a high value on quantifiable health data, you’ll probably have an especially enthusiastic response from them.”
4. Assess your company’s culture. Dr. Carm suggests doing a cultural assessment (also called an environmental assessment) before you begin any wellness program. This will tell you what your employees really think about how health-friendly your organization is (which is often very different from what you think they think).
“As part of the cultural assessment, find out what health topics and initiatives interest your employees,” Dr. Carm recommends. “Putting together a great outdoor walking program won’t really be successful if you live in a place where the average temperature is 10 degrees and your employees would rather be bowling. Ask what your employees would like to do and how interested they are in improving their health. Make the survey anonymous, and you’ll get their honest answers.”