Four Best Practices for an "All-in" Wellness Strategy

Katharine Funke
March 7, 2017

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Employee wellness is elusive.

Innovative employers like you are constantly searching for ways to attract talent through exceptional benefits, engage and retain your current employees, and reduce healthcare costs. To meet all of these critical needs simultaneously, you resolve to implement a wellness strategy. As many human resources experts are aware, it’s easier said than done.

Setting the Curve: OurHealth

OurHealth, an Indianapolis-based provider of on-site and near-site health and wellness clinics, partners with employers to help organizations and employees achieve their wellness goals.

When it comes to wellness strategy, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Below are OurHealth’s best practices for implementing an “all-in” wellness strategy, which can help take yours from good to great. OurHealth Director of Wellness, Kisha Alexander, PhD, MPH, CHES, identifies four main focus areas:

  1. Leadership participation 
    When implementing a wellness strategy, leadership buy-in is a necessity. Leadership participation, on the other hand, can help take it to the next level.

    “Company leaders might support a wellness strategy, but truly embracing and engaging in it is a different story,” says Kisha. “As a CEO, are you speaking about wellness at meetings? Are you engaging in walking challenges? Are you actually participating, or are you just saying your employees should?”

    Kisha encourages organization leaders to consider, “Are you really pushing for it, or are you simply making it available and hoping people use it? The latter clearly isn’t as effective.”

  2. Intentional incentives
    When OurHealth partners with an organization to initiate a wellness program, intentional incentive design is key to driving initial engagement.

    “The most important thing is to make sure the incentives are meaningful, whatever that definition is for the population,” Kisha says. “They also have to align with the company goals. If financial savings are part of the company goals, that should be woven into incentives.”

    For example, an OurHealth client recognized that their population was unhealthy, with a trend of high Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements, contributing to a host of other costly health issues. In response, OurHealth co-developed a robust incentive plan with improvement-focused goals to match the client’s goal to improve BMI.

    Through a collaborative wellness approach between OurHealth and the client, health coach utilization by eligible employees increased 11.2% in three years. This was achieved through a strategic incentive plan, supplemental weight management programs designed specifically for the client, and cross-referring between OurHealth providers and health coaches.

    “Incentives are a way for an employer to show employees that they really care about helping them improve their health,” says Kisha.

  3. “Built Environment” that supports wellness
    A wellness strategy should permeate every aspect of the organization, supporting employees to make healthy decisions. Therefore, wellness should be ever-present not only in the company culture, but also in the "built environment.”

    The built environment, which includes all physical parts of where we live and work, directly impacts employee wellness . In implementing a wellness strategy, there is opportunity in the built environment to keep wellness top of mind. For example, have healthy food available in the office cafeteria and break room, provide bike racks, post signs near the elevator about the health benefits of taking the stairs, and encourage walking meetings.

    “Make the healthy choices the easy choices in your organization,” says Kisha. “A healthy culture naturally motivates employees to engage in wellness.”

  4. Consistent, employee-tailored communication
    As with any organization initiative, clear and consistent communication about wellness topics is imperative to success.

    OurHealth partners with employers to develop communication plans based on the characteristics and needs of the population. The message and method should always be tailored to fit the organization. “Our most engaged client populations are that way because they over-communicate wellness activities to their employees,” Kisha says.

    OurHealth clients experience success with engagement by ensuring that wellness is weaved into as many communication platforms as possible: their intranet, internal communications, break room, annual benefits enrollment, monthly corporate newsletters, etc.

Can I implement a wellness strategy?

Implementing a successful wellness strategy and saving on healthcare costs don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Use these four best practices to implement an all-in wellness strategy that will attract talent, engage employees, and ultimately save money.

Kisha Alexander is the Director of Wellness at OurHealth. She leads OurHealth wellness programs, services, and strategies, and also consults with clients in developing effective incentive designs to drive engagement and improved health. Kisha has led the delivery of effective corporate wellness programs focusing on total population health management for the past 12 years.