1. Workplace Wellness Programs: Everything You Need to Know
2. Facts About Workplace Wellness Program
3. Wellness Programs as an Investment
4. Wellness Programs to Treat Chronic Conditions
5. General Wellness Programs
6. How Can Employees Mitigate the Risks?
7. What Can Companies Do Regarding Legal Liabilities?

Workplace Wellness Programs: Everything You Need to Know

Workplace Wellness Programs are becoming popular with employers as part of their solution to increase productivity, promote health and fitness with their employees, and lower health insurance costs.

Facts About Workplace Wellness Program

Research has found that when an employer has a healthy and happy workforce, it typically correlates to more business success through higher levels of productivity than with unhealthy employees. Employees can also save on health care costs when their employees learn how to better manage their own health. So, it’s no surprise to learn that more than two-thirds of all U.S. based employers offer a workplace wellness program on some level. The company wellness industry has blossomed into a nearly $6 billion industry, with many different options to assist employers in their workplace wellness program initiatives.

Wellness programs can come in a variety of forms, such as:

  • Annual flu shots
  • Robust health screenings
  • Personal health coaching
  • Discounted or free gym memberships
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Weight loss programs

Although employees have tended to embrace the benefits of wellness plans, there are still a significant number of non-participants in these programs at around 60 percent. Some of the reasons these programs might not be fully appreciated is a non-supportive company culture, trust and privacy concerns, or inconvenient program options.

Most employers offer some type of incentive to their employees to participate in their wellness programs. Some companies offer financial incentives such as lower health care insurance premiums or cash for employee participation. In almost all cases, these incentives greatly help the participation levels in the programs. There are also wellness programs designed to charge higher health insurance premiums to employees who don’t participate in the program.

Wellness Programs as an Investment

Corporate wellness programs have been around for a while, beginning in the 1970’s; however, they have grown with increasing popularity since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The ACA offered companies some incentives to provide participatory wellness programs to their employees and families. The goal was to help reduce health care insurance costs by preventing serious medical conditions earlier and to create a culture of health awareness.

While it is hard to prove a definitive return on investment (ROI), some wellness leaders boast of a $1 to $3 return on each dollar invested in wellness programs; therefore, they are typically viewed as solid investments for employers to make.

This increase in the prevalence of wellness programs has created an entire industry that caters to workplace wellness program needs. In a recent study from the RAND Corporation, corporations spent an estimated $6 billion on wellness in 2013, with that figure likely exceeding $8 billion now.

Certain types of wellness programs don't have a high-dollar return. Employers may want to evaluate which types of programs provide the most “bang for their buck.” However, realize that some wellness initiatives reduce costs in the short term, but some lagging indicators won’t see a difference for three to five years. This is the case for many disease management programs that help prevent major medical conditions from getting worse.

The efficacy of corporate wellness programs is still a widely debated topic, and there is no single solution that fits all business’ needs. It may be a good idea to gauge the general level of interest in these types of programs by discussing or surveying your employees.

Wellness Programs to Treat Chronic Conditions

Wellness programs can help treat chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart conditions. This can be achieved through individual coaching with the affected employees, or by offering discounts on prescriptions or free care for the regular diagnostic services to maintain their condition. Wellness programs can be a very effective tool for teaching employees how to better manage their situation and how to stay as healthy as possible.

Diabetics who don’t fully understand their condition can cost your plan more. So, by educating diabetic employees on how to properly care for themselves, an employer could avoid losses from potential absenteeism or long-term health care costs.

General Wellness Programs

Larger employers have moved toward more of a well-being approach that includes various engagement strategies, technologies, and behavior modification to encourage healthy lifestyles.

Many of the employees surveyed about their workplace wellness program needs have replied that they would most like to see an on-site workout or fitness facility. Most employees say they like the ideas of on-site facilities due to their convenience, inviting environment, and low or no cost membership.

Some employers have chosen to implement wellness centers, which bring together like-minded employees who share similar goals or help build a sense of a wellness community and culture. These employers have found the wellness culture is often contagious among employees.

Corporate wellness programs that have incorporated mental health support have been successful, as well. Many of the employees surveyed by Health Fitness have said they feel mental health support can be as important as physical health support.

How Can Employees Mitigate the Risks?

There are some risks for employees who participate in wellness programs. Due to privacy concerns, employees should make sure the consent forms for health data collection explain how data will be collected and how it will be used by both the wellness vendor and the employer.

Employees should feel assured that their information will remain confidential and that their health data won’t affect any employment decisions. Due to the increase of technology involved in storing this data, employees should feel comfortable that the risk of their data being compromised is minimal.

Employers who offer wellness programs should investigate the potential legal liabilities these programs might create for them. Whenever health information is gathered and stored, there is a risk of potential hacking or leaking of data. Employers should create a distinct wall between the data they see and what the wellness vendor keeps on their behalf to protect the employees’ health information. Employers should thoroughly review and ensure the vendors they work with have strict standards for dealing with protected health information.

If you need additional information on workplace wellness programs, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of Google, Strip, and Airbnb.