Did you know that 70% of costs associated with health care today are due to preventable conditions? Private industries are experiencing close to $45 billion a year in employee related medical expenses (CDC Press release July 27, 2009). This is a financial burden many companies can no longer bare. Chronically sick employees can be crippling to any business, small or large, and can even lead to layoffs, company closures and bankruptcies. In the end, everybody loses and suffers.

I was reading recently that, according to a 2009 report, IBM spent more than 1.3 billion a year on health care for the 450,000 employees, retirees, and family members it covers in the United States. Their long-term investment in empowering their employees to be proactive in adopting healthier behaviors has paid off however. Their wellness program saved the company $190 million in health care costs (IBM.com October 6, 2009).

Regardless of company size, reducing health insurance costs has become the highest priority for many companies in the US, as employee health care costs continue to outpace inflation and earnings growth. Companies are starting to realize the significant impact their employees’ health and wellness has on their bottom-line.

Implementing a comprehensive company wellness programs is a win-win for both the employers and employees. Healthier employees lead to better attendance and increased productivity, lower company healthcare costs, and ultimately a healthier bottom-line.

Below are my top 6 tips to inspire your employees to take better care of themselves:

Survey your employees – to find out which programs most interest them. This will also give you the opportunity to start with a couple of programs and expand as needed.

Offer incentives – Getting your employees to actively participate in the wellness programs you are providing is key to the success of your initiatives and efforts. Offer incentive programs to motivate employees to engage, set goals, and be rewarded once they have succeeded in reaching their goals. Using a point based reward system is a great option. This system doesn’t have employees competing with each other. Examples of rewards can be: cash bonuses, free travel, shopping sprees, a month supply of healthy groceries, and/or gift certificates, etc.

Make it a big deal – Making company announcements on employee successes also helps encourage and inspire others to participate in wellness at the workplace. Health care insurance companies are also utilizing incentive programs. When companies implement wellness programs, insurance companies lower their premiums. As of January 2015, if you have 50 or more employees, not offering wellness initiatives to your employees may cost you a penalty of up to $2K per employee, per year.

Keep it fun & simple – Offer initiatives and wellness programs with simple tools that focus on disease prevention and reversal and encourage employees to make small, sustainable lifestyle modifications. If you are new at offering wellness at work, an easy activity would be to run a “Better Body Bingo” game for 30-90 days, with easy to do activities in each square: drink ½ body weight in oz. of water, take the stairs instead of elevator, eat 5 different fruit/veggies today, 10-minute power walk during lunch break, etc.

Be consistent with your message – If you offer a weight loss program, you must make sure that your vending machines are not packed with highly processed and sugar loaded snacks. If you have a cafeteria, make sure at least 80% of the items on the menu are healthier choices. Pack the coffee break room with non-dairy creamers, agave nectar, sparkling waters, nuts and dried fruit.

Address all fronts – Wellness is not just what you eat and how much you exercise. Stress can affect your sleep, your weight, your mood, your relationships, everything. Besides fitness programs, educational nutrition seminars, and healthier food choices at the cafeteria, provide on-site mini clinics about computer ergonomics, chair massage, chiropractic care, as well as access to confidential counseling for substance abuse.

We, at Simon Wellness Consulting LLC, have been providing employee wellness programs in the Tampa Bay area for over 7 years and can help you with your initiatives. Give us a call, and we will be happy to answer your questions.