Customizing and promoting employee wellness programs at your workplace results in better population health.

Employees spend at least one-third of their day at the worksite, which provides employers with an excellent opportunity to promote healthy living. Not only does this result in a healthier workforce, but it offers a meaningful way to give back to your employees.

“When wellness is embedded into your culture, it shows leadership cares about their employees,” says Lauren Hutchens, National Director of Health Coaching at Marathon Health. “It’s a culture tool, and it’s an investment in people.”

From tobacco cessation programs to workshops on healthy eating or managing stress, it’s important for employers to offer a variety of workplace wellness programs that can be customized to your population.

Choosing the Right Workplace Wellness Programs

When partnering with an employer healthcare model or wellness vendor, make sure they fully explain their program offerings.

“Every year, we publish a catalog that outlines the wellness programs we support. It’s a tool for us to have a conversation with our customers about their goals for the year and what success looks like for them,” Hutchens says. “Our goal is to develop meaningful programs that offer value to the employer and to your employees.”

Examples include:

  • Healthy Hearts Program: Informative and interactive group program focusing on heart health. Topics include overviews of blood pressure and cholesterol guidelines, along with lifestyle choices such as exercise, nutrition and stress management to support heart health.
  • Drop-in Walking Program: Health center providers offer informal walking groups at set times throughout the week.
  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Participants learn the benefits of mindfulness and participate in a guided meditation practice.

Shannon Isom, Marathon Health Director of Engagement, stresses the importance of using data — which can be gathered through claims or surveys — to make informed decisions about what workplace wellness programs to adopt. For example, if a large portion of the employee population suffers from diabetes, the employer might choose to offer diabetes prevention and management programs.

You should also keep seasonality in mind, aligning with national designations like American Heart Month in February or the Great American Smokeout in November. Weather matters too, especially for programs that encourage walking.

Keeping Employees Engaged in Wellness Programs

To encourage employees to participate in wellness programs, you can offer incentives, like insurance premium reductions and gift cards. For example, the City of Plantation uses a “Three Steps to Wellness” program.

“Everybody knows about it, and they know their health numbers,” says Beverly Ambrosio, City of Plantation Benefits and Wellness Manager. “If they complete a biometric screening, health risk assessment and annual physical, they end up paying about 11% less on their health insurance.”

Employees earn additional points for receiving preventive care, such as getting a flu shot or completing a health coaching visit, and by participating in regular wellness challenges, fitness classes, and online workshops.

“Once you hit five points, you get a $75 gift card. And if you get 10 points, you get another $75 gift card,” Ambrosio says.

While incentives provide great extrinsic motivators to get people through the door, intrinsic rewards will help support long-term health outcomes.

“If we’re running a program, we need to make sure it brings an intrinsic value to the members to really experience long-lasting change,” Hutchens says. “We can offer the program, but employer support is key.”

Benefits like allowing people to attend wellness programming on the clock or encouraging managers to support their employees in attending sessions and webinars show you care.

“When we run a program, we always look for a way to incorporate more than education,” Hutchens adds. “If someone wants to know how to lose weight, they can Google it. Our goal is to support patients in understanding how they can make the changes to support a healthy lifestyle that works for them. After the 4, 8 or 12 weeks are up, we show them how Marathon Health can continue to support them beyond the initial program.”

The Right Workplace Wellness Program Partner

Success with employee wellness programs takes a true partnership, no matter who you choose to work with. “It’s not only Marathon’s responsibility, but also the client’s responsibility as well to partner with each other to support the wellness or the betterment of their population,” Isom says.

To create a seamless approach for clients, Isom says Marathon Health works on a marketing and engagement strategy to get employees to participate in workplace wellness programming. The Marathon Health model of primary care paired with health coaching and wellness initiatives provides an integrated approach to healthy living.

“Your provider knows when you’re participating in a program so they can help support and encourage you,” Hutchens says. “It’s not all these individual silos that we’re putting on the patient to manage. It’s saying, ‘We’re coming alongside you as a team in this journey to support you.’ How we bring it all together is what really makes a difference.”

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