5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Company's Wellness Program

By Sarah Simmons | 06/13/2017

Workplace wellness programs often tout positive results such as reduced health care costs, increased productivity, and a boost to the bottom line. And while that sounds great for business, as an employee, you may be wondering, “What’s in it for me?” 

The answer depends on the particulars of your workplace’s program, but with the variety of screenings, services, and activities that are commonly offered, it’s likely there’s at least one element that can benefit you. Consider the following ways to engage with your company’s program, and think about how you can use what’s available to improve your health. 

1. Know Where You Are With Your Current Health and Well-Being

The first step in enrolling in many wellness programs is undergoing a health risk assessment (HRA), or a clinical or biometric screening. The goal of these screenings is to identify employees who may be at risk for developing a chronic condition, and to determine what type of medical care they need. You may feel fine at the moment, but everyone indulges in unhealthy habits with effects that can eventually lead to serious illness. An HRA is a chance to learn the current state of your health, and to see what preventive measures can help improve it. 

2. Make the Most of Your Time 

Effective wellness programs focus on making it easy for employees to develop healthy habits. An on-site gym means that you don’t have to worry about scheduling extra time to get to another gym or fitness class. Healthier food options in the cafeteria and vending machine mean that you don’t have to agonize over eating the wrong thing when you need a quick meal at work. And phone counseling with a health coach puts the guidance you need at your fingertips. Some companies even schedule fitness challenges or weight loss program meetings during working hours, and give you flex time to participate in them.  Make the most of these convenient wellness program features; your health and well-being should be as much of a priority as that quarterly report you’re working on, and your company values your health too. 

3. See What Incentives Are Offered

Many companies offer incentives as a way to engage employees with their wellness program offerings. Incentives vary from program to program, but some common options are: 

  • Gift cards
  • Cash deposits into a health savings account
  • Discounts on insurance premiums 
  • Gym discounts
  • Cash bonuses for completing screenings, or other forms of program participation
  • Concert or other event tickets

When your company announces a new program activity or initiative, they’ll usually let you know what incentives are tied to it. Even if that something extra is only a T-shirt or getting your name mentioned in the weekly newsletter, consider taking them up on it. You’re already getting the support to improve your health, and the added incentive is just the cherry on top.  

4. Know What Resources Are Available 

Program activities are often targeted toward achieving certain outcomes, like weight loss or smoking cessation. Your company’s wellness program may have several different resources available to help you reach whatever goal you have, so explore everything that’s out there. Ask about education programs, support groups, health coaching, or tailored interventions. Your company may also offer a general employee assistance program (EAP) that can provide support or referrals to community resources for issues like stress or mental health problems.  

5. Rely On a Built-In Support Network

You’ve been trying to get fit and healthy on your own for a while, but finding the motivation and willpower to follow through can be hard. When everyone is focused on a common goal, it can be easier for you to join in. Some wellness programs include company-wide competitions or participation in a fitness activity like a marathon or 5K, which can be great motivators.  

Not all workplace wellness programs are the same, and the program your employer offers may not include everything listed above. But wellness programs are designed to support you, the employee. So dig in and find out what your employer is offering. Contact an HR person or benefits administrator to find out more. It could make a real difference in your life.

* Employers should work with their legal counsel and human resources advisers to develop appropriate plans and policies.

Resources
Short, L.J. et al. (2016, April) Winning With Wellness. Retrieved June, 2016, from https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/022436_labr_wellness_report_opt.pdf 
Huskamp, H.A. & Rosenthal M.B., Health Risk Appraisals: How Much Do They Influence Employees’ Health Behavior? Health Affairs 28, no.5 (2009): 1532-1540. Retrieved June, 2016, from http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/5/1532.full.pdf+html
Mattke, S. et al. (2013) Workplace Wellness Programs Study: Final Report. Retrieved June, 2016, from https://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/workplacewellnessstudyfinal.pdf