WELLNESS PROGRAM STARTER KIT
This ―starter kit‖ is intended to assist those individuals within an organization who have
been assigned or have taken on the role of starting or enhancing a wellness program for
the organization. The purpose of a wellness program is to promote good physical and
mental health practices among your employees and their families. Helping your
employees to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle is not only good for them but can
have significant benefits for your organization. It almost goes without saying that healthy
employees have lower health care costs than employees with one or more health risk
factors. Furthermore, a number of studies suggest that the indirect costs of unhealthy 1employees may be two to three times higher than the direct costs. Indirect costs refers to
such things as absenteeism, ―presenteeism‖ (where employees come to work but don’t
meet acceptable productivity standards), and disability claims.
It is estimated that 50 to 70 percent of health care costs are the result of personal lifestyle 2choices; that is, they are avoidable. Implementing a wellness program is an excellent way to have a measurable, positive impact on your organization and on the lives of many
of your coworkers and their families. We want to help you succeed in the exciting and 3vital role you’ll play in leading the wellness charge for your organization. This starter kit
will provide you with the blueprint to either start a new wellness program or improve an
existing one. Our Corporate Wellness Consultants are available to help you, if you so
desire—ask your CBH account manager for details.
The first response of most people charged with developing a wellness program is to
immediately start planning an array of fun and exciting activities. However, there are
some important steps that need to come first. We highly recommend that you read
through this manual before getting started.
Step One: Get the Support of Senior Management
In order for your program to have the best chance for success you need the explicit
support of your organization’s senior management. This is because you will need their
assistance in gaining access to the rest of the organization, their active backing of your
goals so that others see the wisdom of getting on board and helping, and their approval
for any funding that your program requires. (It should be noted that you can do a limited
wellness program with little or no additional funding, but you are likely to want some
How you go about getting senior management support is important. You may or may not
succeed if you just approach them and explain why you think a wellness program is a
good idea. But a little planning can stack the deck in your favor.
Management is concerned ultimately with the profitability of the enterprise (or for
nonprofit organizations, with accomplishing the mission while staying within budget).
Therefore, you have to show them credible evidence that (1) improving the health
practices of your employees pays off for the company in some way, and that (2) a
wellness program stands a good chance of improving those health practices. To
accomplish this you will need to do some homework.
Find out what human resource issues are of most concern to your organization’s
management. Is absenteeism high? Are retention rates low (high turnover)? Are accidents
on the rise, or is quality of work slipping? Are disability or workers’ compensation
claims a significant concern? Are health care costs rising rapidly (and where are they not)? Point these out to the manager(s) you decide to approach, and explain that wellness
programs have been shown to lead to a reduction in health care utilization costs,
increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, a reduction in workers’ compensation
claims, and better morale, loyalty, and retention (see footnotes 1 and 2). A review of 73
published studies of worksite health promotion programs found that on average they 4 A meta-achieved a return on investment (ROI) of $3.50 for every dollar invested.
analysis of 42 published studies found that wellness programs led to an average of 28%
reduction in absenteeism, 26% reduction in health care costs, and 30% reduction in
workers’ compensation and disability claims costs.
Describe some specific wellness activities as examples that might impact each of the
areas you decide are major concerns in your organization. (See appendixes 1 and 2 for
ideas.) Finally, explain how you would measure success (keep reading for help with this). In sum, the key to gaining the support of senior management is to show them how a
wellness program will increase the organization’s competitive advantage. You do this
with specific data and examples, but be careful not to over-promise or your plan will be
dismissed as wishful thinking.
Step Two: Form a Wellness Team Once you have the support of senior management, the next step is to create a wellness
team. A team offers many advantages over going it alone. You get representation from
and ambassadors to many areas of your organization, you spread the work around (and
there is plenty of it), you gain the synergism of the many and the diverse, and you have stability and continuity if one or several people leave.
How do you decide who should be on the team? One key is diversity, in many senses of the word, including that team members should come from all areas and levels of the organization. People with health risk factors, such as overweight people and smokers, should be represented. This might surprise you, but they can give you realistic feedback on the likelihood of success of various initiatives aimed at changing these issues. They also provide credibility—if the whole team were paragons of health and fitness, they
might be seen as preaching, or as ―health Nazis.‖
Also, consider the skill sets that will be needed. You need people who are good at organizing events, at motivating people, and who understand the political lay of the land and can get things done in your organization. You need people who can do research and write convincingly. You need people who are respected and liked by other employees. Another consideration is whether team members should be appointed, and if so, by whom, or if you should ask for volunteers. Often a combination of ―invited‖ members and volunteers works best. Go to senior managers and others whose opinions you respect, and ask them to suggest team members. They might also be willing to approach those persons for you and ask them if they would be willing to serve. About eight to twelve members is a good size. If you still have space after inviting members, you might open it up to volunteers. The upside of this is that they are likely to be motivated. The downside