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9 Ways to Kick off the New Year with a Winning Wellness Program


As the new year approaches and consumers begin to jot down their New Year's resolutions, taking steps to lead a healthier life is always at the top of the list. As a business leader, you have the power to support your employees in their quest for better healthy by implementing some proven methods that promote healthier employees, which means lower health care costs, less absenteeism, and higher productivity. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Maybe you already have a wellness program, take advantage of the tax incentives and grants available under federal health care legislation, and have seen some moderate improvements in your employees' health and labor, but have resolved to take it to the next level this year. 

As an experienced Wellness Program Manager that has worked with dozens of companies to implement and improve their wellness programs, I can tell you, just handing out free gym memberships and posting a healthy food chart in the break room isn't enough to achieve noticeable results in your workforce. It takes a bit more effort, but it's worth the investment. Harvard Business Review conducted studies on several companies and the impact of their wellness programs, and the results were pretty astounding.

Johnson and Johnson

Johnson and Johnson's leaders have estimated that their wellness programs have cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs. Between 2002 to 2008, the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent. They achieved this by investing in their employees' social, mental and physical health with a strategically designed wellness program.

MD Anderson Cancer Center

After creating a worker's compensation and injury care unit in 2001, lost work days and modified-duty days declined by 80% and 64%, respectively within six years. Likewise, workers' compensation insurance premiums declined by 50%.


Grocery chain, H-E-B, has benefited immensely by leveraging its competitive employee culture and wellness leaders who provide encouragement, education, mentoring, and organize local health events. Their internal research estimates that by moving employees from high- and medium-risk to low-risk yields an ROI of 6-1.

If you've resolved to improve employee participation in your wellness program, get your employees more motivated to get healthy, and lower healthcare costs, here are nine ways to kick off your wellness program in the new year.

1. Education

The most effective and successful wellness programs begin with education—both for leadership and employees. Through regular communication, give your employees tips on leading a healthy lifestyle such as balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and regular health screenings. Provide information on the effects of smoking, obesity, alcohol use, and unhealthy practices that can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stress, and depression.

2. Management participation 

Managers and executive leadership should lead by example, by exercising and practicing healthy habits. Your employees are watching you, and if they see you taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or grabbing a bottle of water instead of an afternoon dose of caffeine, they may follow your lead!

3. Wellness leaders and ambassadors

Empower wellness leaders to sponsor training webinars, maintain an online wellness resource center, organize health fairs, and promote local health events within the community, such as 5Ks. 

4. Positive incentives

Offer rewards for adopting a healthier lifestyle and provide access to assistance for employees who are suffering from unhealthy addictions such as smoking or alcohol abuse.

5. Mental health

Think beyond diet and exercise and provide access to counseling for employees experiencing stress or depression.

6. Individualization

Use biometric tests to determine employees' health status and track wellness progress, while maintaining employees' confidentiality. Ensure your employees have access to their individualized health and wellness information so that they are aware of their conditions and can take proactive measures to make improvements.

7. Make it fun

For some people, the thought of going to a gym to exercise is dreadful. To encourage employees to get up and get moving, even if it's not in a traditional gym, promote events and activities that involve dancing, swimming, playing sports, biking, or walking trails. The key is to educate your workforce that any form of movement and exercise is good for their health.

8. Healthy on-site foods

Stock vending machines, self-service kiosks, or on-site cafeterias/restaurants with healthy food and drink options.

9. Partnerships

Develop relationships with outside vendors that provide healthy products and resources. For example, partner with a local sandwich or smoothie shop to give your employees small discounts or loyalty cards that can be redeemed for free healthy goods.

When your business has a winning wellness program that your employees are engaged and excited about, morale will be high and you'll build a healthy, happier workforce. Subsequently, you'll have better attendance and improve employee retention. As you've seen in the examples above, this can result in substantial savings on healthcare costs for you.

Images via Giphy

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