PEO Horizon: A Publication of PEO7.com
 
Wellness Program to Reduce Cost
 
Employment-based health insurance premiums are soaring each year. One study shows an annual increase of almost 90% since 2000.  For some companies, the annual health care bill can amount to nearly 25% of net profits.  If your company is scrambling to bring down costs, then implementing a wellness program that reduces premiums while improving employee health may be an ideal solution.
 
What Is A Wellness Program?
              
More and more companies are recognizing workplace wellness programs for their value in improving health and well-being of employees.  They are designed to improve employee loyalty, productivity, and morale, and they may range from as little as an on-site gym, to as extensive as smoking cessation programs, health risk assessments, health screenings, and nutrition, weight, or stress management training.
 
Do Employees Really Swallow The Concept?
 
Perhaps the toughest obstacles facing a successful wellness program are the social taboos. Complaints about intrusiveness and discrimination are common, especially from lifelong smokers. The employer’s need to trim health care costs may put overwhelming pressure on employees in a way that negatively affects overall morale. Therefore, the key in selling the fitness concept is to inspire the employees to participate voluntarily.
 
How to Encourage Healthier Life Choices
 
Keeping it simple with bulletins or e-mails with daily health tips my go a long way. Even a small gym can be a minor start-up cost. Employees like to be rewarded for signing up with prizes like vacations or points that can be redeemed for gift cards, massages or other services. They also appreciate discounts on health-care premiums if employees must bear part of the cost.  Some companies can even afford free weight-loss programs, gym memberships, and emotional counseling as an incentive for more motivated employees.
 
Larger conglomerates may arrange programs with nearby fitness centers or, if they have the resources, build their own medical and fitness centers to meet any health-related need an employee might have. These ventures have included drive-thrus for free prescription drugs, and a full-time staff of doctors, nurses, dieticians, mental health counselors, physical therapists, and even personal trainers.
 
Long Term Results
 
Make no mistake about the expense involved in a wellness program. While large companies can expect positive financial results in approximately four years (some have had a 3-to-1 return), smaller employers are likely to enjoy the benefits of happier, healthier workers right away. The idea is to show employees that the company really cares. If you bear the cost of employee health insurance, understand that collectively encouraging healthier lifestyles is a far more effective way of keeping down insurance premium than risking company morale by singling out the unhealthy to shoulder the added costs.

Consult your PEO for any questions or concerns you have about adopting your own wellness program. Go to www.PEO7.com for more information.