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Improving Health and Wellness in the Workplace

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 4364 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Vision: To improve the overall health of our company, starting with the most important piece, our people.

Purpose: Our aim is to implement a holistic workplace wellness program that supports our employees with the tools and resources to make healthy lifestyle choices and integrate these changes into their daily work routine. The focus of the programs and initiatives will be based around the 3 pillars of wellness: Mental, Social and Physical. We will monitor, measure and evaluate the initiatives, making revisions as needed. The ultimate goal is to create a company-wide culture of wellness, subsequently improving morale and attendance while preventable disability claims and decreasing benefit plan costs.

Objectives: The overall objectives of our wellness program are to:

       Develop an inclusive and supportive culture of wellness, focused on preventive health and wellness practices.

●       Listen and action ideas from employee feedback surveys to encourage a participative and engaging program that is based on the needs and wants of the employees.

●       Enlist the management team as the front-line advocates and cheerleaders for the initiatives, backed by the Employee Wellness Committee.

●       Encourage teamwork and innovation when it comes to participation and new ideas.

●       Regular communication with employees using various methods to deliver relevant information, updates and access to health related resources.

Goals: The main goals of the wellness programs and initiatives are as follows:

       Increase employee engagement scores within 12 months of the program launch

       Decrease absenteeism by 3% within 24 months of the program launch

       Achieve 50% employee adoption rate for the wellness platform within 12 months of the program launch

●       Increase the EAP usage by 20% within the first 12 months of the program launch

       30% of employees participating in at least 1 company run volunteer activity per year

Key Performance Indicators: In order to evaluate the effectiveness of our wellness programs and initiatives we will review and report our findings in the following key areas:

employee sick days (absenteeism), short & long term disability claims, Workers Compensation claims, health care and prescription drug claims data and usage rates, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) usage rates, employee turnover (attrition and terminations), employee engagement, and volunteering participation rates. Results will be shared with the executive team at each quarterly planning meeting.

Group Benefits Redesign
One of the first priorities to address will be the redesign of the current group benefits plan offering. Through our employee survey, we confirmed that employees are not satisfied with the current benefits offering and are looking for plans with more flexibility to suit their needs.

Our current plan through Pacific Blue Cross offers one plan design for all employees. While the coverage is on par or above average in most areas, compared to what is being offered by other employers in our industry, our employees are telling us that one size does not fit all.

The first step in the benefits plan redesign will be to sit down with our benefits consultant to discuss the various options available to us. We would like to look into moving to a flexible benefits plan or cafeteria plan, where employees have more control and choice over their coverage. It is also important that we consider integrating a Health Care Spending Account for added flexibility.
The next steps in the benefits redesign process will be:

●       Determine the point person within the HR department to spearhead the benefits redesign initiative

●       Conduct a detailed employee survey and focus groups to gather feedback specifically on current benefits plan and employee’s needs and wants

●       Gather past claims experience and current demographic data

●       Benchmark report to survey what other employers in similar industries are offering

●       Benefits consultant to survey the marketplace to get pricing for flexible/cafeteria plans

●       Benefits consultant will then compile the data and present to the HR team

●       HR team will then present the options to the leadership team

●       Choose the carrier and plan that best suits our objectives and goals

●       In depth employee roll-out and education sessions

●       Monitor usage and communicate plan features to employees on a regular basis

Studies have shown that employee satisfaction with their benefits is directly correlated with their understanding of the program (MacDonald, 2014). Therefore, when the new plan is launched, we must focus on education sessions and communication. Regular and ongoing communication with reminders, tips and updates will be valuable to help employees understand the coverage and increase their perceived value of the benefits plan coverage. 

Disability Management Redesign

The short term and long term disability coverage in place meets the needs of the organization and the employees. However; the management of disability claims, return to work, and accommodation processes need to be addressed and modified to be more in line with our vision and goals for the wellness culture of the organization.
The first priority is to designate a member of the HR team as the internal disability claims manager. This individual will be the in-house liaison who will manage claims and be the main point of contact between the third party insurance carriers, Workers Compensation and the employee, during the claims process.
A top priority for the disability management process is to develop a well defined disability claim communication process. In the event of a claim, clear communication will ensure that all parties are informed and updated regularly. It will also serve to keep the employee engaged and feeling connected to the company while on leave, which will aid in expediting the return to work process. We will also formulate and develop a return to work process and policies that address the issue of employee accommodation, to ensure the transition back to work is handled in an efficient manner.
The disability claims manager will also work closely with the Health and Safety committee to ensure that appropriate measures are in place and safety expectations are communicated to all staff regularly to avoid preventable injuries. A clear and defined process for reporting workplace injuries and accidents will also need to be developed and documented.

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Currently, the short and long term disability premiums are paid by the employer. This means that in the event of a claim, employees are taxed on the benefit amount they receive. It would be beneficial to employees if we were to change this to an employee paid benefit, so that the disability payments are received tax-free. We will need to include an education piece in our communication strategy so that employees understand the benefits of this change.

Going forward, we will review the short term, long term and Workers Compensation claims on a quarterly basis with the third party insurers. These metrics will indicate whether the proactive wellness initiatives in place are beneficial and helping to meet our goals. Additionally, by keeping track of the cause and reasons behind claims we will be able to analyze and adapt the programs and initiatives to address underlying health and wellness issues, where possible.

Wellness Program Incentives
Integrating a rewards and recognition plan into the wellness culture is a good way to engage and motivate employees to take an active role and participate. 

Based on the employee feedback survey, employees indicated that they were more likely to be motivated by tangible rewards. Therefore, we will focus on health and wellness based rewards, such as gift cards for massages, sporting goods stores, and other local health and wellness services, to further promote and incentivize healthy living.

It is important to also focus on recognizing employees for their efforts associated with the wellness program and culture. Research has shown that recognition drives employee engagement and can increase engagement by up to 60% (Mason, 2019). For recognition to be effective it needs to be timely, frequent, specific, visibile, inclusive and values-based (Mason, 2019). Recognition will take place quarterly or in real time as challenges occur and acknowledged in the monthly newsletter and on the employee wellness site. Aside from bragging rights, individuals and teams will also receive certificates and company branded wellness swag. At the bi-annual Town Hall event the individuals, programs and initiatives will be highlighted and recognized as a part of the wellness presentation.
To begin, we will focus our rewards and recognition for individuals, teams and departments in three categories:

1) Health achievements and participation: this will be based on the individual and group health challenges and acknowledged quarterly or as programs and challenges wind-down.
2) Wellness innovation: highlighting the ways in which teams and individuals are embracing the wellness culture and going the extra mile. Based on nominations put forward by colleagues and leaders.

3) Charitable contribution: acknowledging teams and individuals for their community and charity involvement.
The individuals receiving rewards and recognition for their commitment to health and wellness will also be highlighted on our social media platforms.

Marketing and Communication Plan

When it comes to the marketing of the wellness program, this is a chance for the company to show it’s personality and lighter side. As a technology company, we have so many creative and talented employees in-house. To build awareness and engagement, we will be enlisting our employees for participation in the creation of the program name and logo. Once the submissions are in, we will have a company wide vote to determine the winner. The chosen program name and logo will be used consistently on all wellness related materials and communication.
The main objective of our communication strategy is to engage and inform our employees through consistent and timely communication. Our overall marketing and communication plan will be focused on the following factors:

Regular communication: Based on the employee feedback survey, our main method of communication will be through a monthly email newsletter, supplemented by our social media channels and company watercooler (chat). Hard copy flyers and posters will be used to advertise upcoming events. While the employees have indicated that they prefer digital communication, we still want the wellness program to have a physical presence in the workplace as well. We will dedicate a large bulletin board in the employee lounge as a place for wellness related flyers, brochures, posters, an events calendar, benefits info and other hard-copy, take-home materials as well as employee and team recognition. 

Relevant content: The content of the monthly newsletter will address all things wellness and include a variety of information including, but not limited to: updates or features of the current benefits plan, upcoming events (lunch and learns, volunteer opportunities), recognition of team and individuals, reminders of current wellness initiatives, links to health and wellness articles, local wellness related businesses or practitioners.The overall aim of the email is cover a broad range of topics that are of interest to employees. The use of graphics, charts and FAQs are other effective ways to relay information as opposed to written content.  It’s important that the titles and descriptions are short, to the point and evoke interest, as research has shown that we only have approximately 2.7 seconds to capture the reader’s interest (Connors, n.d.).

Leadership visibility and participation:  It is important that each month the newsletter feature a message or blog post from one of the members of the leadership team to show their commitment to and participation in the wellness culture we are building.
Two-way communication: In order to keep the communication channels flowing both ways, the internal website will also have a feedback section where employees can submit ideas for health and wellness initiatives and polls to vote on potential programs. We will also have a physical suggestion box in the employee lounge where employees can submit ideas for new programs, activities and initiatives.

Program Budget
When it comes to the budget for the wellness program, we need to view the initiatives as a long term investment. There will be costs associated; however there are many low cost or no-cost options available as well. Running all of the wellness initiatives and program in-house, as opposed to hiring a third party will provide major cost savings. The Employee Wellness Committee will spearhead and action initiatives as approved and endorsed by the leadership team. The biggest cost requirement is the time commitment of leadership & employee resources.
Associated costs:

●       Wellness technology: online wellness platform & mobile app

●       Company wellness programs, events & activities

●       Rewards and incentives (company branded swag)

●       Lunch & learns (speakers & food)

●       Assessments, screenings, flu shots

●       Health fair

●       Marketing and communication resources

●       Employee time commitment

Our overall goal when it comes to budgeting is to stick to the programs and initiatives that are in-line with the organization’s goals and objectives for the wellness program. As a part of the wellness strategy, we will be looking for low-cost initiatives that can integrated, such as lunch and learns or education sessions sponsored by our insurance providers or community health practitioners.
In researching what other companies are doing, there does not seem to be a consensus on how much to budget per employee. But taking into consideration the above noted costs, it would be reasonable to budget $150-$300 per employee, per year, as a part of the annual budget (this amount does not include the cost of benefits). When thinking about the budget for the wellness program, it is important to keep in mind that studies have proven that the investment in wellness has significant returns. Harvard University research has found that “for every $1.00 spent on wellness programs, medical costs fall by about $3.27 and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73” (Sun Life, 2011).

Program Timeline

The timeline has been divided into two categories. The first portion breaks down the main initiatives over the first 3 years of the program. The second portion lists the ongoing activities that will occur on a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual and annual basis.

0 – 6 months

●       Define roles – determine point person for benefits redesign and disability redesign

●       Establish Employee Wellness Committee

●       Wellness program branding competition and winner selection

●       Gather baseline data for future metrics comparison and ROI

●       Select and implement health and wellness online/mobile platform

●       Obtain options for benefit plan options, present options to leadership team

6 – 12 Months

●       Implement benefits plan redesign

●       Disability redesign best practices established and formalized

●       Conduct first employee engagement survey (12 months from start)

●       Conduct first program review using evaluation criteria (12 months from start)

12 – 24 Months

●       Host first annual health fair

●       Wellness program audit

36+ Months

●       Become certified by Excellence Canada as a Healthy Workplace


Ongoing: Monthly

●       Wellness email newsletter

Ongoing: Quarterly

●       Employee and team rewards and recognition

●       Wellness program review using evaluation criteria

●       Present review data to leadership team at quarterly planning meetings

Ongoing: Bi-annual

●       Town-hall – wellness program overview and employee/team rewards and recognition

●       Employee engagement survey

Ongoing: Annual

●       Wellness program evaluation and audit

●       Establish annual budget for wellness program

Evaluation Criteria and Methods

Prior to the start of the wellness program, it is important to collect all of the relevant data, metrics and information in order to have a baseline to compare to and to have a starting point for evaluating the return on investment. The criteria we will be using to evaluate the success, based on our program objectives and goals, are as follows:


Collection Method

Number of sick days

Internal HR data

Employee turnover (attrition & terminations)

Internal HR data

Health care & prescription drug usage & claims

Data provided by third party insurer

Short term & long term disability claims data

Data provided by third party insurer

Workers Compensation claims data

Data provided by Workers Compensation

Employee Assistance Program usage

Data provided by EAP provider

Community & volunteer participation rates

Internal data on sign-up & attendance

Employee feedback on programs & initiatives

Feedback surveys & focus groups

Employee engagement scores

Engagement survey (bi-annual)

The frequency of the evaluations is an important factor to consider as well. With results of wellness plans being hard to prove in the short-term, we will conduct our first review of the evaluation criteria at 12-months from the launch of the program. We will compare the data to the baseline data collected prior to implementation. Going forward, the criteria will be collected quarterly and shared with the leadership team at their quarterly planning meetings. Ideally, over time, the data will show a decrease in claims costs, absenteeism and disability costs and an increase in employee engagement and participation.
In addition to the quarterly reviews to analyze how the initiatives are impacting the organization, we will be conducting annual wellness program audits. This annual ‘pulse-check’ will include three phases:

1)     Assessment: qualitative and quantitative data collected from insurers, employees, and management.

2)     Analysis: review the data collected in the assessment phases and highlight the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis).

3)     Recommendations: use the SWOT analysis to guide decisions regarding potential program changes and revisions keeping in mind the program goals and objectives.

We need to look at the wellness program as a long-term investment that may not show immediate results. However, the data collected in the evaluations and reviews should be a guiding factor when it comes to making decisions about the program. It is important to avoid becoming stagnant and we must focus on allowing the wellness program to evolve along with the needs of the business and employees. When looking to outside companies to see what is being offered in terms of wellness, we need to always ask the question, would that initiative work for us and meet our goals and objectives?
Ultimately, the vision for the wellness program comes from the philosophy that “employee happiness and productivity can only be attained when employees feel that their well-being is in the organizations’ best interests” (“Digital HR and employee wellness”, 2017).   If we put the wellness of our employees at the forefront of our organizational priorities, the positive results and return on investment will follow.


         MacDonald, K. (2014, March 10). The Pros and Cons of Flexible Benefits. Retrieved August 24, 2019 from https://www.canadianbusiness.com/leadership/the-pros-and-cons-of-flexible-benefits/


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