What is 'Wellness Program '

An employer approach to improving employee health, wellness programs include activities such as company-sponsored exercise, weight-loss competitions, educational seminars, tobacco-cessation programs and health screenings that are designed to help employees eat better, lose weight and improve their overall physical health. Wellness programs often involve financial incentives for employees, such as lower health-insurance premiums or gift cards.

BREAKING DOWN 'Wellness Program '

Besides improving employee productivity and decreasing sick days and leaves of absence, all of which reduce operating costs, wellness programs may be able to lower an organization's health insurance expenses. Employees can also benefit from wellness programs through lower health insurance premiums, decreased out-of-pocket medical expenditures and an increased sense of well-being.

Corporate wellness programs offer a variety of scheduled programs, such as stress management seminars that address everything from sleep to work-life balance to financial health; cooking classes; healthy recipe exchanges and fitness challenges. Other components of an effective corporate wellness program might include healthy vending machines and cafeteria offerings. Healthy and appealing food might also be served at meetings and included in company-provided overtime meals.

It's also important for corporate wellness programs to promote mindfulness of workplace noise and regular and appropriate breaks. Many companies also offer in-house workout spaces or marked walking paths on the corporate campus to encourage physical activity. Others institute no-smoking policies or policies requiring seat belt use in company vehicles.

In addition, organizations might create wellness-related linkages between their wellness program and other company benefits like employee assistance programs (EAPs), which help employees get support when they are in a difficult emotional or physical situation that affects both their health and their work. EAPs connect employees to counselors who can advise them confidentially on issues from emotional distress to a difficult medical diagnosis to personal or work relationship issues to life events like marriage or parenting.

Health screenings are a controversial component of many company wellness programs. Some people contend that tracking cholesterol, body mass index and other figures leads to de facto discrimination and heavier financial burdens placed on workers with below average health.

Example of a Corporate Wellness Program

One corporate wellness program created by Indiana company Draper, Inc. – a manufacturer of gym equipment, window shades, and projection screens – instituted a 10-week weight loss challenge called “Dump Your Plump.” It consisted of 12 teams of six employees, each competing to win weekly grocery gift cards and a cash grand prize for the overall winner.

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