Wellness Programs in the Workplace

Kimberly O’Toole

Client Manager, Consulting

One of the most popular trends within the Insurance Industry over the last few years has definitely been Wellness Programs.  Every company feels they should have one yet when asked details about what a Wellness Program is, the answers can range from complete silence to multiple different ideas.  Taking some time in the beginning to define a few items can greatly improve the odds of a successful program.

When an employer is thinking about incorporating a Wellness Program into their employee offerings, it’s important to decide exactly what the goal of the Program is.  And, in order to determine if the Program is a success, there needs to be a defined goal to measure against.   For Company XYZ, that goal might be to make an impact on claims experience, which in theory, could impact their healthcare spend.  Company ABC might decide their goal is to get their employees thinking about healthier choices when it comes to food and daily routines. 

It’s also important to ask how much time can be devoted promoting and monitoring the Program.   Wellness Programs can take on many different looks and feels but the most consistent aspect is the amount of time it can take to administer.  Things to consider before launching a Program:  How will wellness related materials be distributed to employees?  Which topics are important to your employees?  Will there be a walking challenge?  How is that monitored and encouraged?  A successful Wellness Program is not a short term project.  Wellness Programs typically take a few years to gain traction or make an impact.  The Program will most likely be changing and evolving in response to the acceptance and participation level of the employees.

Then there’s the topic of budget.  How much money is the company willing to invest on Wellness?  Is a Health Risk Assessment or Biometric Screening going to be offered? How are employees motivated to participate in the Program?  Many companies offer incentives for participation in the Wellness Programs.  That could be a gift card to a local coffee shop or health food store or even premium contribution discounts on their healthcare premiums.  The options are endless.  Finding fun and valued incentives for employees can be one of the more creative and challenging sides of a Wellness Program.

In addition to the basic questions above, there is a legal side to Wellness Programs.  Recently the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) released their final regulations pertaining to Wellness Programs and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).  All Wellness Programs with a plan year starting on or after January 1, 2017, must determine if their program falls under the ADA guidelines, which has very strict rules regarding what information can be collected and what can be done with that information.  There are also HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) regulations that must be considered when implementing a Wellness Program. 

Wellness Programs can be a fun way to motivate employees, engage in healthier lifestyle decisions and improve work performance.  They can also come with a lot of questions.  If you are interested in discussing Wellness Programs for your company, we would be happy to help guide you through the process!  Give us a call.

About the Author:

Kimberly joined the Craford team in June of 2015 as our Client Manager focusing mainly on our larger accounts and association business. She brings over 13 years of experience in the insurance industry. Her background includes a unique mix of carrier knowledge, having worked for three major insurance carriers, Brokerage experience along with Benefits and HR Administration for a local business. The knowledge gained from all three sides of the insurance industry proves invaluable when considering our client’s needs.