[aa_subtitle_display]Employee wellness programs are growing in popularity with about half of all employers in the United States offering some sort of program. It’s easy to see why: an investment in wellness programs can pay off in happier, healthier employees who will be better able to handle stress. Wellness programs can reduce employee absences, boost productivity, and lower health care costs. It may even improve corporate culture and work as a team-building exercise. So what exactly does a wellness program include? These programs mainly focus on preventative care, to encourage healthy behaviors before an unhealthy lifestyle results in preventable illnesses. There is a broad range of wellness programs that can include many different aspects or just a couple. Here are just a few of the aspects that a wellness program may include.

Screening – About 80 percent of all employee wellness programs include some sort of health screening. Screening employees for unhealthy behaviors or warning signs of disease can help companies figure out which interventions and programs would be best suited for their employees’ needs. Screenings may be called Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) and may include questionnaires for employees to self-report things like their weight and behaviors. It could also include clinical screenings to check height, weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

Smoking Cessation – Smoking cessation programs can include offering information on strategies and tools to help deal with cravings, as well as a support group or counseling for those trying to quit. The American Cancer Society even offers the Freshstart program, which trains one of your employees to be a Freshstart facilitator so they can offer guidance and counseling to those trying to quit tobacco.

Weight Loss Programs – For larger companies or those with a lot of overweight employees, a weight loss program can include offering Weight Watchers or other weight management counseling meetings on-site.
On-Site Vaccinations – Offering flu shots to employees can help to prevent sick days during flu season. When a flu shot clinic is offered on-site, employees may be more likely to get vaccinated because it is so convenient.

Healthy Eating – Employers may provide information on healthy eating or they may even provide a healthy lunch once a week. Consider requesting healthier options in vending machines or providing healthy snacks in the break room.
Access to Fitness Equipment or Videos – Wellness programs may include a subsidized or free gym membership for employees, or some employers may set up a gym on-site. However, many employees find it difficult to make time to work out in a gym or they would rather do it at home.

Entrepreneur recommends offering subscriptions to websites that offer workout videos and tips so that employees can exercise in the privacy of their own home whenever they find time.

Activity Challenges or Teams – Some companies choose to provide fitness trackers (even something as simple as an inexpensive pedometer) so that employees can be challenged to reach a certain level of activity each day or to see who can be the most active. While not as competitive, some employees may enjoy forming a walking team that can get together before or after work or on a mid-day break to go for a brisk walk.

These are just a few suggestions for an employee wellness program; there are many ways to help employees live a healthier, happier life. The most important part of the program is to make sure that employees participate, so consider offering an incentive like lower premiums (check if your plan offers discounts with a wellness program,) or prizes for those who make healthy changes or win at challenges.

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