by Liz Stevens, contributing writer
An increasing number of companies are implementing creative ways to improve their employees’ health and wellness, demonstrating their belief that this also will improve morale and productivity in addition to reducing healthcare costs. Do the homework before offering employees a financial carrot; rules for implementing incentive programs are changing on January 1, 2019.
1. Incentive programs
Many employees respond to the offer of an incentive to take better care of themselves. Incentivizing employees to stop smoking, lose weight, eat healthy or develop a regular exercise routine can be done affordably with a reward such as a gift card or a fitness tracker, or can be designed around offering discounts against an employee’s health insurance premium. These programs can be offered directly by an employer or by an insurer or third-party contractor.
2. Health screenings and flu shots
Offering health screenings can help employees identify health risks, and providing flu shots is a no-brainer for keeping employees healthy and on the job. These types of programs can be self-administered or carried out by insurers, third-party administrators or wellness providers. Common screenings include simple blood pressure evaluations; osteoporosis screenings via a simple, quick heel scan; lung capacity screenings to detect lung obstruction or restriction due to smoking, disease or environmental factors; biometric screenings that include a seven-minute blood lipid profile measuring six key factors; health risk assessments that return a medical assessment of self-reported risk factors; blood tests to detect prostate cancer vulnerability; and skin cancer exams. The incentives for these activities can range from merely a reward for participating in the screening/testing process to recurring rewards for reaching healthier test results in subsequent screenings.
3. Fitness challenges and “Biggest Loser”-type contests
These programs capitalize on competition, a naturally occurring trait found in humans and, especially, among coworkers. In addition to promoting health and wellness, these events are excellent team-building exercises. Some of the possibilities include offering cash prizes for the team that scores the biggest weight loss and even “Biggest Loser” weight loss kits that can be found online; app-based challenges, where employees compete against professional sports trainers and athletes; programs for challenging employees to run, walk or bike for the charity of their choice; and company-sponsored prizes awarded for employee participation in local 5K races.
4. Onsite health and wellness coaching
Having a credentialed health and wellness coach at the company can help improve employee physical and mental health, thus reducing employee absenteeism and its related costs. While creating a program to help employees identify and reach health goals, coaching also can help create a happier workplace – with anything from onsite clinics to fitness centers to healthy snacks – that improve morale and serve as recruitment/retention tools. Coaches may bring techniques to enhance employee self-awareness and their sense of accomplishment, thereby reducing stress and burnout. And employees who observe supervisors and management making use of the company’s wellness and coaching options will be more likely to be proactive with their self care, following their leaders’ example. The International Coach Federation, coachfederation.org, offers resources for learning about the benefits of coaching and how to take the first steps to finding a coach.
5. CPR and first aid training
Becoming better prepared for workplace emergencies is a key option for any company. Health crises and accidents are facts of life, and arming employees with first aid and other training can be a literal lifesaver. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires businesses with no nearby clinic or hospital to provide first aid and CPR training to their employees, but OSHA does not deliver this kind of training. Many organizations, including Red Cross and the American Heart Association, offer workplace safety training that includes courses in first aid, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator).