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Sustaining the Benefits of Your Wellness Program

By Kevin McGuinness editors@plansponsor.com | January 02, 2014

January 2, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Employee wellness programs are a long-term commitment for employers, but can yield positive benefits such as increased productivity, and healthy, engaged and loyal employees.

A new white paper from Virgin Pulse, “Beyond Participation: How to Sustain Healthy Changes in Employee Behavior,” indicates that there has been a progression in wellness programs over the last few decades. Employers have switched from programs that merely avoid risk and cut costs to ones with “a more consumer-friendly approach that drives true change in employees’ lives.”

Employers can gain a competitive advantage from wellness programs, according to the paper, since the results of such programs can be improved job performance and retention. In addition, the paper finds that sustained engagement in wellness programs lowers health care costs, or at least reduces their rate of increase. The paper cites research findings from sources, such as Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, which indicate that 45 companies qualifying as best performers in employer health costs were distinguished, in part, by the ability to keep cost increases low over an extended period.

In terms of how to foster a sustained dedication in employees to such wellness program, the paper recommends several steps such as:

  • Creating a habit through small, achievable goals;
  • Developing a daily routine to build sustainable habits and overcome ingrained unhealthy patterns;
  • Making wellness activities social. The paper cites that 64% of participants in wellness programs will push themselves harder if they are doing the activity with others;
  • Distributing recognition and rewards to maintain momentum; and
  • Making the wellness activities fun and therefore more motivating.

Using steps such as these to drive behavior change will help to ensure long-term success with a company’s wellness programs, according to the paper.

If employers’ wellness efforts are successful, say the paper’s authors, employees will “continue those life enhancing, healthy habits because they’ve become part of their personal identity.” In addition, the authors add, such habits will not help employees feel better but also “become part of how they respond to challenges in their lives.”

Instructions about how to download a free copy of the paper can be found here.

Virgin Pulse, part of the Virgin Group, is a provider of strategies and tools to increase the engagement and loyalty of employees though programs related to physical wellness.