Workplace Wellness: Program Categories

By now, you know the basics of beginning a wellness program and have an understanding of the methods available to gather employee information. After you have assessed your needs and available resources it’s time to decide the type of program that best suits your organization.  Workplace wellness programs can be so diverse and include such a wide range of activities and initiatives that it is difficult to pigeonhole them into specific categories.  However, they can be roughly categorized based on the level of effort and time needed to make them successful and the type of activities included in the program. The three general categories of wellness programs we are going to take a closer look at are: screening events, health education and promotional activities, and prevention and intervention measures.

Screening Events
The simplest type of wellness program for you to implement involve screening activities.  A screening activity is basically a health risk assessment (as discussed in the prior blog). Health risk assessments can be as basic as a self-administered questionnaire or can include a comprehensive health check-up. The goal of these programs is to give your employees information on their health status which can then motivate them to achieve better health and wellness.

Example  - Open Their Eyes
Dan’s screening shows that his blood pressure is alarmingly high. Taking into consideration his family history and the fact that he is a smoker, he is advised that he could be putting himself at increased risk of a stroke.  Based on this information, Dan is motivated to make some changes to his lifestyle including increasing his activity levels and attempting to quit smoking. The only problem to this is sustainability. Dan might not have the tools or knowledge base to know how to change his lifestyle. Without ongoing support in place Dan’s initial enthusiasm for change may be swept up in apathy.

Screenings can often be set up through your health plan provider and are a cheap and manageable option, however in terms of the long-term health of your employees they best serve as an excellent starting point to move forward with.

Health Education and Promotion Activities
These wellness programs will require a little more time and financial resources, however they will offer more support to your employees and give them the knowledge needed to make changes to their lifestyle. You might consider providing education sessions and materials, or individual and group counselling sessions for topics such as smoking cessation.

Example - Give them the Power to Change
If we take a look at Dan again, fresh with the news of his high blood pressure, an educational session on ways to incorporate physical activity into his lifestyle may be beneficial. Dan would also find great support in individual or group counselling to help him quit smoking.

Making lifestyle changes isn’t an easy thing to do alone and any type of support you can put in place will certainly make a difference to employees. Other types of wellness promotion programs may include changing policies or procedures around the workplace to create a healthy culture. Walking meetings can be a great way of injecting a bit of activity into everyone’s working day and healthier cafeteria and vending machine offerings would make eating healthy the easy option. These wellness programs are a great way to give your employees the knowledge and tools to make lifestyle changes. You are putting the power for change in their hands and making the workplace a fantastic environment for change.

Prevention and Intervention Measures
Wellness programs that attempt to reach wellness goals and achieve lifestyle changes are the most involved and resource-laden type of programs, however if implemented correctly they may deliver the best results. These wellness programs could include a weight-loss initiative, a walking competition or similar ideas that attempt to influence employee behaviour. Typically these programs will provide an up-front investment to bring in outside counsellors or resources such as pedometers or scales. These programs are highly involved but if you manage to engage employees in them then the chances are that they will be very successful.

Example - Change Their Lifestyle
Let’s say that based on the health screening results, you decide to implement a walking competition within the workplace. By nature, Dan is an extremely competitive person and sees the walking competition as a great opportunity to both improve his lifestyle and satisfy his competitive edge. Every break and lunchtime Dan racks up the steps on his pedometer and before he knows it he has lost weight, dropped his blood pressure and improved his overall health. Dan wins the competition and prize, but more importantly walking then becomes a part of his daily routine. As a result, Dan’s energy levels increase and he becomes more motivated during his working day. It is a win-win situation.

This type of highly involved program will potentially provide a fantastic return on your investment, but it needs a high level of support from management and a high employee engagement in order to be successful.

In the next blog we will discuss different ways of implementing exercise into the workplace and how to do it in a way that will encourage support from both management and employees.


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