Thursday, November 30, 2017

7 Things to Stop Doing in Your Wellness Program in 2018 (and What to Do Instead)



With no gold standard on what makes up an effective wellness program, it’s hard to know how to put one together. Oftentimes it ends up being built on what’s always been done before… (think biometrics and HRAs.)

However, based on the continued decline of American’s health, (2/3rds are overweight, over 103 million have high blood pressure and 1 in 10 adults have type 2 Diabetes) 2018 is a great time to change up the way companies do wellness to create more positive health outcomes.

You can do your part by stopping these 7 things and focusing instead on the key components that drive real results:

1. Ditch the scattered approach.

Many companies begin wellness by providing a Health Risk Assessment, throwing in a lunch and learn here and there and introducing some online learning modules.

We call this the scattered approach, where you throw it out there randomly and hope something triggers health improvement. The problem is, it’s hard to define your program with this approach, and even harder to measure its success and impact.

What you can do instead: It is worth the time and energy to plan out an annual in advance. This will help you get strategic with what you are offering, determine what to budget for and ensure continuous wellness effort and attention. It also allows you to more efficiently track progress and monitor results.


2. Rethink the HRA model.

Health questionnaires that require employees to answer question after question, can be a barrier to employees’ participating in your wellness program. Many are uncomfortable sharing that information with their employer.

Furthermore, these questionnaires do little to improve the health of the individual, as it offers nothing about their health that they don’t already know.

What you can do instead: Instead of lengthy HRAs, offer action-based wellness initiatives that drive behavior change and provide something employees want to participate in. Some examples include offering wearable activity devices or healthy cooking classes.


3. Don’t pay employees for only taking a biometric.

Yes, knowing your numbers is an important first step to identifying health conditions that can be treated or better controlled. But it isn’t a wellness plan in and of itself.

Many corporations spend all their available wellness dollars the cost of biometrics and incentives for employee to take it. Not only does this set a precedent to employees that they should be paid for each health action, but it often doesn’t leave funds for other important wellness programming.

What to do instead: Focus on what is being done throughout the year to keep employees from moving into a lower health category next year. Ask yourself, what high touch programming can be offered to improve health status for the entire population?

Also, if there simply isn’t enough wellness budget to do it all, consider skipping the biometric every other year and implement programming in-between that focuses on healthy actions throughout the year.


4. Say goodbye to health libraries.

Let’s face it, if someone has a health condition or symptoms they are concerned about, they can easily pick up their mobile device and Google it. They aren’t going to take the time to login to the wellness portal and search for articles on their concerns.

Plus, information overload on your portal just makes it that much more difficult for employees to navigate and focus on the more impactful programming.

What to do instead: Focus on key health initiatives that have been shown to make a big impact, like physical activity and promotion of annual physicals, and leave Google to answer the rest.


5. Take out the guesswork with your wellness program results.

Is my program working? What do the employees think about it? Is it worth the investment? Are we truly changing behavior? Often, companies get so caught up in managing their wellness program they forget to put measures in place to answer the questions above.

What to do instead: Consider capturing and evaluating the following metrics in your program:

  • Participation rates (# eligible vs # signed up)
  • Engagement rates (# signed up vs. # completed/engaging in multiple offerings)
  • Participant satisfaction
  • Physical activity trends with wearables
  • Health metrics from health kiosks
  • Health changes through biometric or claims data on wellness participants vs. nonparticipants
  • Missed days of work

6. Stop boring participants with your program.

Questionnaires, biometrics, flu shots, oh my! These things may provide your program data, but rarely do they generate enough excitement for employees to talk about them around the water cooler.

What you can do instead: If you want your wellness program to go viral, look at programming that includes challenges, team events, or scavenger hunts.

Also, make sure your program offers significant recognition, so your non-participants start to wonder what all the fuss is about and decide to join the program.


7. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

No matter what wellness program you put together you will hear good and bad things about it. When getting feedback, consider the source and how it aligns with the goals of the program.

Your healthy and active people may say it is too easy, or they don’t get enough credit for the triathlon they are training for. Considering this is only 10% of your population and they are doing all the right things already – is this who you want to tailor your program to? Probably not.

On the other end of the spectrum, be aware of the chronic naysayers. They will criticize whatever you put in the wellness program no matter what. They likely do this for anything new at the company and are unlikely to participate in your program regardless of offerings or incentives. This is usually about 20% of your population.

What you can do instead:
Focus on the 70%. That make up the majority and can gain the most from your program. This is a great population to target your wellness offerings to drive engagement and results. Listen to what they need and success will follow.

So, let’s not do wellness as usual in 2018. With obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions on the rise, this is a great time to implement strategies for more effective workplace wellness!