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are you doing too much with your wellness program?

August 20, 2009

in health communication,wellness

this post is the second in a five-part series exploring how to provide a customized wellness experience to upwards of 20k employees and their dependents. it all began back here: when “good” made me feel bad. in today’s post, i address the question: are you focusing on the programs and people who’ll make a difference?

i define a comprehensive corporate wellness program as an array of services that help employees and family members better manage chronic conditions, change unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, and improve their quality of life on all levels. to customize something this broad requires narrowing your focus to what’s really going to make a difference to the business and individuals.

cost of health risks

we all know the ramifications of not making a difference are stark: lowered productivity. increased presenteeism. depression, disease, death. ever-escalating health care costs.

focus your program design

with wellness, there are plenty of bells and whistles and shiny new trinkets to distract you. before you design, purchase, or implement anything, determine what services to offer and who needs them most. take a close look at your medical, disability, health and safety claims. what costs by health risk levelshows up? are these factors exhibited differently across demographic populations? within this data lies the answer to where to focus, from a design and population perspective.

but what about what employees want?

i’m an evangelist of employee listening. and—lucky me—with the rise of social media, listening is no longer optional. you can listen to your employees within the organization or you can join your customers, potential talent, and the press in listening to them on the internet. your choice.

when it comes to wellness, listening can be highly instructive in deciding how you deliver the services and information your workforce needs. the key word here is deliver. from your review of the data, you’ll know how to focus your program design. you’ll know whether managing diabetes, tobacco cessation, weight management, or stress reduction, for example, are your hot buttons. you—not your employees—have the necessary bird’s-eye view.

ready, aim, customize

where employee input is invaluable is in understanding and problem-solving major participation barriers. using exercise as an example, focus groups quickly tell you what interferes with getting daily exercise: time, money, access to facilities, child care, etc. unlike surveys, which could also tell you this information, focus groups also tell you how you can lower these barriers.

now you’re ready to devise a customized solution. naturally, you’ll consider workplace feasibility and budget constraints. and with the information gained from employees, you can confidently select an on-site gym, fitness discounts or reimbursement program, online seminars and games, a virtual fitness club—or some combination—that’ll achieve your aims and overcome their obstacles.

employee input is also critical for making information easy to find and constructing a supportive environment. but those are topics for later posts in the series.

up next in the series: are you and your external partners working together or at cross purposes?

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[images: working toward wellness: the business rationale]

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