The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a workplace wellness program as “a coordinated and comprehensive set of health promotion and protection strategies implemented at the worksite that includes programs, policies, benefits, environmental supports and links to the surrounding community designed to encourage the health and safety of all employees.”1
Wellness programs at work originated in the early 1900s, when a few key manufacturers invested in programs to keep their employees healthy and productive. For example, in 1905 Milton Hershey started building a leisure park for employees of the Hershey Chocolate Factory, wanting a “more pleasant environment for workers and residents than any typical factory town of the time.”2
In the 1950s, companies started using a more structured approach with initiatives like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), expanding to include help for mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In the 1970s, emerging studies showed the cost of employees’ unhealthy habits—namely, smoking, alcoholism, poor nutrition and preventable injuries—made the case even stronger for employer intervention. Employers were chiefly concerned with reducing both healthcare claims and workers’ compensation cases. In 1971, The U.S. Department of Labor established the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions.
During the 1980s, physical fitness was the main focus of many newer corporate wellness programs. Scholarly journals began legitimizing workplace wellness programs as a means to reduce absenteeism and potentially attract top talent.
During the 1990s–early 2000s, outcome-based wellness programs—requiring participants to achieve specified health-related goals in order to receive a reward or incentive—began to show impressive results.
What are the benefits of wellness programs at work?
Most employers see a role for themselves in the health of their employees for the following reasons:
- Healthy employees are more productive and have fewer accidents.
- Healthy employees experience less absenteeism. Some employers have reduced their absenteeism by 40% with a quality wellness program.3
- Healthy employees have lower healthcare costs, including the portion of such costs absorbed by the employer.
- Employers with strong wellness programs usually have a corporate culture that greatly improves their ability to attract and retain the best employees.
What makes a good workplace wellness program?
According to “Corporate Wellness Program: Linking Employee and Organizational Health,” there are 4 leadership principles that make a corporate wellness program successful: 4
- Defining health in a way that includes employee well-being
- Creating a supportive workplace environment
- Offering prevention-focused health education
- Providing rewards for healthy employee behaviors
“Healthy People” provides outcome-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. Comprehensive workplace health programs as defined by “Healthy People” contain the following elements:5
- Health education, which focuses on prevention, skills development and lifestyle behavior changes, along with information dissemination and awareness building, preferably tailored to employees’ individual interests and needs
- Supportive social and physical environments that include organizational expectations and policies promoting health and reducing the risk of disease
- Linkage to related programs like employee assistance programs (EAPs), coaching and programs to help employees balance work and family life
- Worksite screening programs ideally linked to medical care to ensure follow-up and appropriate treatment as necessary
Most sources agree that best practices in establishing wellness programs at work also include:
- Relevant and personalized offerings for a diversity of employee needs and interests
- Individualized incentives that inspire effort and reward sustained change
- Evidence-based approaches and scientific methodologies related to motivation, behavior and decision-making
- Data-driven tracking resources that include measurement, evaluation, reporting and analytics
- Culture-building opportunities through employer-sponsored engagement events and partnerships between employees, employers, organizations and the local community
Ultimately, a workplace wellness program is a set of initiatives to improve employee well-being. Wellness programs at work reflect an organization that values its employees and supports their health as well as their sense of purpose, security and belonging.
The Go365® well-being and rewards program provides employers with trusted, healthy lifestyle programs for comprehensive well-being: mental health, physical activity, financial security and social relationships. Our program provides the resources, care and proven techniques to impact health outcomes and empower clients to improve employee productivity, satisfaction and morale.
To find out more about Go365, contact your licensed Humana sales agent or request more information about Go365’s wellness program by filling out this formOpens in new window.
Go365 is not an insurance product and is not available with all Humana health plans. This is a general description of services which are subject to change. Product features may vary by client. Please refer to Customer Support for more information.
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1“Workplace Health Program Definition and Description,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed January 7, 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/pdf/workplace-health-program-definition-and-description.pdfPDF opens in new window.
2“Workplace wellness,” Wikipedia, last accessed January 8, 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_wellnessOpens in new window.
3Charles Bens, “What is Workplace Wellness, Really?” Corporate Wellness Magazine, last accessed January 7, 2022, https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/workplace-wellness-reallyOpens in new window.
4Henggao Cai, “What attributes characterize a successful corporate wellness program?” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Monthly Labor Review, last accessed January 7, 2022, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2021/book-review/pdf/what-attributes-characterize-a-successful-corporate-wellness-program.pdfPDF opens in new window.
5“Workplace Health Program Definition and Description.”