The cost of providing healthcare benefits is rising at a slower pace than it was a few years ago, yet organizations continue to look for ways to control healthcare costs. Anyone who administers an employer-sponsored health plan understands that the cost of healthcare coverage is more expensive for organizations that employ unhealthy people. This understanding led organizations of all types to embrace wellness programs.
As healthcare improves, more and more people are interested in learning how to improve their overall health. This interest provides employers with a unique opportunity to help employees learn how to make choices that support a healthy lifestyle, which ultimately improves their health.
Does Your Church Focus on Wellness for Your Employees?
Wellness programs are employer sponsored initiatives that help to educate and support employees in making healthier lifestyle choices. Employers invest in these programs because of the impact healthy employees have on the cost of insurance premiums.
Wellness programs can be approached any number of ways. Some organizations offer financial incentive/rewards for participation; weight loss or smoking cessation programs; others stock vending machines with healthy snacks; or encourage employees to walk during scheduled break and lunch times. Other long-term strategies include newsletters that keep employees informed of trending health issues, nutritional classes and guest speakers.
Improved health is not only beneficial for employees but also for the organization. Churches can reduce healthcare benefit costs when their employees are healthier and make fewer trips to the doctor. Incorporating wellness programs, in any form, results in healthier employees who take fewer sick days and can increase work output because they simply feel better. Even though there can be a cost for providing a wellness program, most organizations see a reduction in overall healthcare costs.
For example, providing an onsite workout facility may encourage employees to exercise before, during or after work. While there is an initial investment, providing this type of benefit may give employees access to exercise equipment that they may otherwise not have access to; which may help them exercise more often.
Well-defined programs are essential to a best practices approach to wellness. The Society for Human Resource Management found that the companies that were most successful in their wellness programs:
- Included spouses in important components of the program. – when spouses are included in the benefit it helps to support the entire family and allows them to target improved health as a family unit. For example, if your church has a gym, encourage employees to work out with their spouses.
- Promoted all activities under a single brand name (“The [company name] we’re all in this together plan,” or “The [company name] feel better program” – show support by making it an official church sponsored program that is named, branded and marketed to employees.
- Had a formal, written strategic plan with financial objectives – incorporate wellness into the strategic planning and budgeting process.
- Ensured active participation by senior leadership – church leaders need to lead by example, participate in the program and encourage employees to take steps to improve their overall health.
Aon Hewitt, a human resource solution company, found that 83 percent of employers offered incentives of some sort. They offered both rewards and consequences although 79 percent offered rewards while only five percent used consequences. Some (16 percent) used a mixture of rewards and consequences. For the most part the financial rewards were between $50 and $500. The incentive isn’t necessarily in the form of money; the employer can offer gifts (tablets, gift cards, etc.) or extra vacation days. Management can set up a monthly staff meeting to reward that month’s winner. This works best for weight management but is also good for something like no sick days within a department.
The Mayo clinic did an interesting study on reducing obesity rates by offering incentives for losing weight. The study found that offering financial incentives resulted in people not only sticking with the program, but the participants also lost more weight than those who did not receive a financial incentive.
Starting a wellness program first requires an assessment of your employees overall health; your health insurance company can help you do this. The most effective wellness programs involve employee involvement from the planning stage through implementation. For example, identify a group of employees to help plan the program. Have this group develop the program and help to encourage other employees to participate. Try to create a program that everyone will enjoy and commit to. Start slow, begin by doing simple things like stocking the vending machines with healthy snacks, and then work toward developing a weight management program. Consider your organization’s culture and mold the program around its unique personality and the employees’ willingness to participate.
Everyone wants to be healthy, but not everyone knows how to get there. Organizations are investing in these wellness programs to help bridge that gap. More and more organizations are realizing the benefit of offering their employees wellness programs and are looking for creative ways to include it in their benefit packages. Not only are these organizations benefiting financially but also in employee health, attitude and engagement.
Working in ministry is a calling and those who are committed, need physical stamina to make it for the long haul. Churches that provide wellness programs help support an employee population that is healthier, happier and more energetic. And may also realize some cost savings along the way!