Wellness programs have been rising in popularity over the past few years, though there’s some contention around whether or not they’re effective. The answer is somewhere in the middle: it depends on what you want them to do. We’ve gathered some answers to common questions to help you make the best decision for your business as you plan ahead.
Q: What are the different types of wellness plans?
A: As employee wellness has increasingly gained attention and a spot on most employers' priority lists, the variety of wellness plans has increased. Your wellness plan will change depending on several things: where your priorities are, what your budget is, and the demographic you want to reach. Some examples of standard plans are:
- Wellness programs to help stop bad habits such as smoking
- Paramedical plans that offer massages, chiropractic work, or acupuncture
- Employee assistance plans and teletherapy to provide mental health support
- Physical activity challenges such as community races or a team steps contest
- Coaching services for leading a healthy lifestyle (cooking, physical activity, mental wellness)
Q: How do I find a wellness plan that fits my organizational needs?
A: Not every wellness program will work for your business. First, ask yourself, "What is my primary goal for implementing an employee wellness program?" Your plan may look different if your goal is to reduce healthcare costs for your business than if your goal is to create more loyal employees by developing a positive culture.
In either case, the main thing you want is for people to participate. If you choose a plan that doesn't interest your employees, they'll be much less likely to participate, resulting in a low ROI. Send out a survey, taking the temperature of your employees' feelings about a wellness program. Ask what interests them, what challenges they have and would like help with, and how they see themselves participating. Use what they tell you to inform your wellness plan choice.
Q: Are wellness plans effective?
A: There's been some back and forth about whether wellness programs work. Critics point to studies showing a lack of clear improvement or healthcare savings for employers who offer wellness programs. There have also been studies showing that while people who participated in the programs cited feeling happier and healthier, their participation didn’t result in decreased healthcare costs for employers. Other studies show that programs aimed at increasing physical health are most often used by those already in good health and can possibly alienate those who aren't.
However, the conversation of employee wellness has become a top concern for employers and employees alike. Employees expect more from their organization and value jobs that support their overall wellness. Proponents of wellness programs point to studies linking them to increased employee retention, satisfaction, engagement, and much more.
Q: Do I need to worry about keeping my wellness program in compliance?
A: In the past few years, regulations for ADA-covered wellness programs that include employee participation incentives have come under some scrutiny. Critics say wellness programs that require employees to pay higher premium costs for not participating or not meeting specific health-related goals are immoral and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Last year, the EEOC proposed new regulations, requiring only "de minimis" incentives for employee participation. Under the new rules, health-contingent wellness programs would still be allowed to offer incentives of up to 30% of the total cost of insurance, but no more. So far, the new regulations haven’t been published yet and will likely be challenged. To stay in compliance, be sure to know what kind of wellness program you’re offering and how it may be affected.
Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Raffa, we’re not interested in finding you a policy solution for this year. We’ll create a long-term, employee benefit strategy designed to help you become an employer of choice. Want to build a better future for both your business and your employees? Get in touch with Raffa.
Photo by: Wittaya Doktanyong