How to Start an Employee Wellness Program

apple on keyboardWhen I stop and think about employee wellness, I have to step away from my day-to-day responsibilities and take a look at the issue from the employer perspective. I think it’s a no-brainer to install a wellness program at every company, no matter the size, demographic, location or what service or product the company provides. My belief is that no company can be successful without paying attention to the well-being of their people -- and people can’t be successful without feeling good every day.

Yet many people view wellness as a privilege. Why do some companies create entire cultures around wellness, and others do not? What makes them special?

Healthy People = Better Business

Here are the facts: Healthier people work harder, are happier, help others and are more efficient.  Unhealthy workers are generally sluggish, overtired and unhappy, as the work is a symptom of their way of life.

According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, every $1 invested in employee wellness programs yields roughly $4 in savings through reduced sick days, higher productivity and decreased overall health costs.

It's no wonder why: We live in a fast-paced, busy world, full of constant distractions. We're constantly dialed in with technology and always on the move. Which is why it’s so refreshing to walk into a company where you feel the environment is different, one where people seem motivated, excited, inspired and really loving what they do.

My experience with corporate wellness leads me back to Google in Mountain View, CA (and how Google maintains its status as one of the top 100 best companies to work for year after year).  Google doesn’t just create jobs, they create a culture, one in which people are valued and appreciated every day. Google’s locations have full fitness facilities, daily classes and healthy food available throughout the day; as a result, employees feel cared for and valued.

Of course, not all companies are as lucrative or as large as Google, and perhaps resources are not as vast, but every company has the ability to place some type of wellness program in place. As healthcare costs continue to rise, and there is more demand to work around the clock, this is more important than ever.

Wellness in 4 Steps

So how do you install a wellness program that‘s efficient, smart, scalable and goal-oriented?  We have a four-step process to create this type of culture change -- and the steps are simple enough for you to start taking right away, too:

  1. Determine the needs of employer AND employee. First, we ask a simple question: What do employees need, and how do those needs fit with the goals of the employer? It’s impossible to answer these questions without assessing both sides. It is essential to understand the mindsets, challenges, and your audience first before laying out a framework for its path. This includes surveying not only the employees, but also the employer. A simple health risk assessment (which your insurance carrier may offer) followed by biometric screens is a good way to assess problem areas.
  2. Analyze the data and create a plan. Based on our survey data, we try to determine what elements will work for the existing culture. Is it fitness classes that will motivate the employees, wellness workshops, individual health assessments, or some combination of the above? We always recommend combining wellness education with physical activity -- otherwise, many employees will not take advantage of classes and programs they need to see real benefits.
  3. Create a communication plan. A culture of wellness doesn't happen without reinforcement. Employers must create a communication plan  that lays out the program's framework and different methods (and times) to communicate the information to employees. This keeps wellness at the forefront.
  4. Put an incentive plan in place. We have found, time and again, that rewarding employees for getting healthy and achieving results encourages the type of change needed to get a program off the ground and encourage a real shift in employee culture. However, because the required behavior changes are new, challenging, and difficult to sustain, programs must include incentives and rewards throughout the year in order to drive long-term engagement.

It takes time to break old habits and develop new ones; companies, like people, cannot approach wellness as a short-term or quick-fix solution. But getting started is easier than you think.

What about you -- is your company taking wellness seriously yet?

Joshua Love is a passionate, motivated entrepreneur who seeks to create an impact in the corporate fitness/wellness industry. Driven by the will to succeed, he has worked with many of the top hotels and companies in Los Angeles and has created custom programs for employers that now have become standard practice for their culture. Joshua continues to open his network and expand Kinema Fitness to new markets.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

About Joshua Love

Joshua Love is president at Kinema Fitness. He moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Syracuse University and spent three years at IBM as a consultant. After making some tough decisions, Joshua followed his dream to California and worked for Equinox Sports Clubs, eventually becoming a master trainer.

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