Workplace Wellness Program
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Developing a Wellness Program.

As organizations today continue to compete in the global economy, cost containment strategies will be increasingly important. Controlling the rising cost of worker ill health is becoming a priority for corporate leaders.

The emerging corporate culture in the U.S.  is one which has an staff member population centered in health, safety and wellness.

Developing a corporate strategy for wellness and disability management makes good business sense. the following eight-step process ensures a strategic, integrated, needs-driven and results-oriented approach.

The following process works best in organizations with strong leadership and a long-term commitment to staff member health.

1. Identify Your Program Champion

This individuals should be a leader in your organization and a strong advocate of health. Typically this is an individual who actively pursues his or her own personal quest for optimal health.

The program champion must’ve the resources and authority to drive the program forward. the program champion’s key role is to ensure the strategic plan for health is aligned with the corporation’s corporation objectives, strategic focus and organizational values.

For  instance if the organization promotes that “our strength is our individuals ” the wellness program must demonstrate how programs will nurture and protect that valuable resource.

2. Form Your Wellness Strategy Team

The Wellness Strategy Team ought to include decision makers and stakeholders from areas of the business that can influence health and the corporation’s bottom line.

These areas may include; finance, human resources (HR), training and development, health services, compensation and benefits, worker assistance services (EAP), marketing and advertising, facilities, health and safety, rehabilitation, cafeteria or food services and the union. A team of six to eight representatives is recommended.

The role of the Strategy Team is to develop and implement the strategic plan, look for opportunities to promote health, ensure the program is integrated into key areas of the organization, streamline efforts, maximize company resources and program investigation.

3. Complete an Organizational Health Audit

The purpose of an Organizational Health Audit is to evaluate your existing programs and services, physical environment and policies and procedures that support health.

It’s also important to look at your organizational culture or “how things are done” around the company.

Members of the Strategy Team complete the Audit independently and then meet to discuss their evaluation. During the evaluation process, health issues and opportunities are discussed in preparation for the development of the strategic plan.

4. Analyze Your Corporation’s Cost Pressures

Cost pressures are identified by reviewing  a number of areas including; benefit costs, Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) claims, drug usage, kind of paramedic claims, absenteeism data and employee assistance program (EAP) utilization.

This process assists to target areas that can be positively impacted by a wellness program and to provide a baseline for evaluating  change.

5. Conduct a Health Risk (Assessment|Appraisal} or Employee Needs and Interest Survey

The next step is to determine your employee’s health risks, interests and readiness to change. A confidential health risk (assessment|appraisal} can accomplish many goals.

It provides a baseline from which to measure personal lifestyle changes, provides employees with relevant health information, motivates employees to take charge of their health and assists in program planning.

Most health risk (assessment|appraisal}s provide individual reports and a corporate report identifying high-risk areas in the company.

A lot of organizations prefer to administer personalized needs and interest survey to evaluate staff member needs. the benefit of this approach is that the corporation is able to gather information on the employees’ perceived wellness needs and program interests.

This information could be incorporated into the strategic plan. Administering a recent survey also has the added benefit of fostering a sense of employee ownership to the program.

6. Create Your Strategic Plan for Wellness

The strategic plan should incorporate information collected from the Organizational Health Audit, your corporation’s cost pressures, and health risk (assessment|appraisal} data or staff member survey results.

The strategic plan ought to include your program mission, three or four objectives and several programs under each objective. the strategic plan provides a framework to encourage, support and evaluate “best health practices.”

It’s also important that the plan align itself with the vision, objectives and objectives of the organization.

The sample strategic plan that follows was created for blue jeans maker Levi Strauss and Co. (Canada) Inc. Levi Strauss and Co.’s mission statement and aspirations (how staff members interact with each other in a business environment) guided the development of the plan.

Levi Strauss and Co.’s aspirations include the following statement –  Above all, we want satisfaction from accomplishments and friendships, balanced personal and expert lives, and to have fun in our endeavors.

The wellness program plan included a number of components to ensure that it embraced this statement including the following –

1. A vision statement, which tied in with the corporation’s aspirations.

2. an incentive system to encourage and reward the accomplishment of healthful milestones.

3. A recognition system to applaud success.

4. Friendly competitions between Levi Strauss and Co. locations to ensure a fun environment.

5. Opportunities to participate in small group educational programs to foster team support.

6. Initiation of support groups for staff members completing wellness programs (i.e. use of tobacco control support group).

7. Programs dealing with work and family balance.

Other information that was analyzed and used to create the plan included –

1. Company demographics

2. Focus groups

3. Cultural audit

4. Top drug report

5. employee assistance program utilization

6. Staff Member benefit services report

7. Health and dental claims

8. Operational performance summaries

9. Health risk (assessment|appraisal}s

7. Prepare a Business Case to Support Your Plan

Your business case for wellness provides the necessary details for approval at the  senior level management level. the business case includes –

1. the Strategic Plan for Health

2. A proposed program budget

3. Advertising strategies

4. Program leadership options

5. an implementation plan

6. Analysis methodology.

In presenting the strategic plan it is important to highlight how the plan aligns itself with the strategic direction of the organization.

The program budget ought to include educational resources, marketing and advertising costs, rewards and incentives, leadership costs and supplies.

Advertising strategies should address how the program will be promoted and rolled out to various groups within the organization i.e. decentralized locations, high risk employees, older employees.

Program leadership should address how volunteers will be used, internal resources  and whether advisors have been proposed. All play an equally important role in the implementation of your wellness program.

The program implementation plan should incorporate the following types of programs that help create awareness of positive health practices, assist employees in making lifestyle changes and initiatives, which support long-term change.

Awareness programs create an awareness of the importance of healthful lifestyle practices and motivate workers to take the next step. Examples of awareness programs include posting educational posters, newsletter articles and lunch and learn seminars.

Lifestyle change programs are more robust and longer in duration. They’re designed to assist employees in changing behavior. Examples of lifestyle change programs are nutrition education programs, stress management programs, back care classes and tobacco use control programs.

A supportive corporate environment encompasses everything from corporate policies and procedures, the physical environment and creating a corporate culture that supports good health practices. Follow-up sessions and support groups for staff members who have completed 6-10 week wellness programs also provide a supportive environment for long-term change.

Investigating the effectiveness of wellness is ongoing. A formal analysis must be conducted annually and may include; re-administering steps three to five, program participation statistics and a year end survey to revisit “soft” issues such as morale, program satisfaction and future program direction.

8. Solicit Input and Communicate Your Plan

Worker input is crucial to the long-term success of your program. an Worker Advisory Committee must be formed to roll out the plan. Another key responsibility of this team is to solicit feedback from all levels of the organization to ensure buy-in.

Front line Manager’s Information Sessions and focus groups are also important. This group needs to buy-in to the notion that they play a key role in supporting positive health practices.

Regular meetings are recommended with front line managers to receive ongoing input, address issues and orient new managers.


The World Health Corporation’s definition of health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellness and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”

In order for us to develop healthful workplaces, wellness programs must have a program champion, have staff member ownership, be management supported, results driven and strategically aligned with the overall business objectives of the organization.

Wellness program that embrace these qualities will have a positive impact on an corporation’s bottom line. Canadian research points to many case studies where on-site programs have resulted in decreased absenteeism, lower claims and increased productivity.

Organizations who have embraced wellness as part of “how they do business” have one thing in common. They demonstrate a commitment to their most valuable resource – their people .

They understand the increased pressures associated with downsized organizations, a quickly changing workplace, an aging work force and the challenge of balancing work and family obligations. and they share a common belief that healthy employees are happier, absent less and more productive.

References –

Design of Wellness Programs by Michael P. O’Donnell. 1995. Published by the American Journal of Wellness.

Pro Fit-ability by Veronica Marsden. Group Healthcare Management. May 1997.

Meeting Expectations by Laura Mensch. Worker Health and Productivity. August 1999

7 Steps to Wellness by Daphne Woolf and Veronica Marsden. Group Health Care Management. February 1996.

Published in the Journal of Wellness for Northern Ireland, Issue 9, March 2000


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