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MIIA is a Membership Service of the Massachusetts

Wellness Programs Can Improve Organizational and Employee Wellbeing

Published in News on by Wendy Gammons, MIIA Wellness/Health Promotion Manager

Wellness programs have become an important component of employee education and healthcare benefits among for-profit and nonprofit organizations nationwide. The reason is clear: improving the wellbeing of an organization and its employees is a win-win proposition.

Employee wellbeing, measured in “people metrics” such as quality of life, energy levels, mood, level of happiness, and job safety, all benefit employees personally. They also impact “business metrics” such as absenteeism, presenteeism (working while sick), productivity, recruitment, and retention – all of which impact organizational performance.

Organizational health influences employee health. If an employee is trying to integrate more movement into his/her day and lose some weight, he/she is going to be so much more successful if the employer encourages movement breaks and supplies healthy snack alternatives. 

What does a successful wellness program look like?

The most successful wellness programs have a clear mission/vision, strong leadership support and ongoing communication strategies. Other best practices include active representative wellness teams and skill-based activities that touch on the four components of health: physical, social, emotional, and financial. Programs that are fun and foster social connections help increase job satisfaction and happier employees are more productive employees.  Individualized health coaching and meaningful incentives are also considered best practices. 

Wellness programs can improve health and reduce an organization’s healthcare costs. However, the programs must meet the key criteria (as outlined above) and overall participation must be high. According to a February 9, 2016 article in STAT News, Al Lewis, founder of Quizzify,which helps employees make better health decisions, notes that the Florida based wellness vendor US Preventive Medicine reduced the incidence of asthma, cardiac events, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and diabetes among its customers. “The numbers add up and [disease] events definitely declined,” said Lewis. USPM put together “all of the items” that go into best practices, he said, including individualized health coaching and high employee participation.

A recent study from the University of California-Riverside, “Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity,” finds that corporate wellness programs can save companies money by reducing absenteeism and health insurance costs. Researchers also quantified an additional benefit to the bottom line: higher productivity from all participating employees. The improvement is dramatic – “approximately equal to an additional productive workday per month for the average worker.”

MIIA’s Wellness program follows best practices such as promoting both organizational and individual wellbeing, and includes programs that focus on the four components of health. The wellness staff works closely with Member leaders to advise them on strategies they can implement to grow cultures of wellness at their worksite.

MIIA’s wellness programs are also varied to meet wide-ranging employee needs and include onsite, online, and mobile opportunities. Retirement planning and budgeting have been very popular as are health literacy, health care consumerism and mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce accidents, increase happiness, focus and concentration, and reduce tension and stress.

Partnering with other divisions within your community can boost engagement and produce results. For example, MIIA Wellness partners with MIIA Risk Management to bring “Tailgate” trainings to Departments of Public Works. Workshops cover topics such as “Cold Weather Safety,” “Driver Fatigue,” “Snow Plow Driver Wellness,” “Preventing Back Injuries,” and “Summer Safety.” One town participant stated, “…such training sessions as a health and wellness piece for our town/DPW employees is such an asset, both to myself as a safety coordinator, but more importantly to all of our employees that reap the benefits.”

Other programs that have the potential to improve health include healthy eating workshops, self-care and stress reduction programs, better sleep workshops, and a wide variety of exercise programs such as boot camp, yoga, Zumba, Fitbit walking challenges, and more.

In the end, the goal of any wellness program should be to provide the skills participants need to make long-term behavior changes. Cities or towns that haven’t yet implemented wellness programs are encouraged to talk to their insurance provider to see what is available and what incentives are offered. Management support for wellness programs, and the creation of a wellness committee, will encourage more employees to participate. Your staff, constituents and budget will all thank you for coming on board.

Side bar:

Participant feedback

MIIA recently surveyed the more than 6,000 employees that took part in its Wellness programs and received noteworthy results:

  • 96% would recommend wellness programs to other employees
  • 89% felt that the program would help improve their overall health
  • 84% were confident they would integrate what they learned into their lifestyle
  • 68% said they would be more productive at work


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