Make wellness part of culture

Monday, April 25, 2011

Q. How can I implement a company wellness program?

A. Congratulations to your company on starting a wellness program. This is an important step toward encouraging your employees to adopt lifestyles that are healthier, such as good nutrition, exercise and preventing the onset or worsening of serious health conditions. Workers are more likely to perform better when they are feeling well.

Workplace wellness programs have also been shown to be effective in slowing the increase of healthcare costs. So, how do you begin? First, capturing senior level support is critical to the success of the program. Managers have to "buy in" to the program and understand its benefits. Then, consider establishing a wellness team or committee made up of employees. Include individuals who will be part of creating and evaluating the program. Set up a plan to collect baseline information about your workforce to help assess staff wellness and health risks that will drive your initiatives. This can be done through voluntary wellness exams using a local health are provider as a resource. The provider should be able to schedule the wellness exams, perform health risk assessments, and provide non-identifying data to you about your workforce. Using the data, develop a yearly operating plan for your wellness program, by deciding what you want to accomplish in the first year and how you will measure results. 

Encourage and develop a supportive atmosphere in the workplace that includes praise for employee participation and the opportunity for employees to participate in wellness programs at work. Consider scheduling guest speakers periodically for "lunch and learn sessions," or short sessions for employees to attend on a monthly basis at the workplace. Including employee incentives can be a great motivational tool to get your program up and running. These can be as simple as gift cards to purchase fitness equipment, or company logo items given to employees that complete an initial wellness exam.

Michele Faulkner is the human resources manager at Merits Health Products. Reach her at or 239-772-0579, ext. 268.