The Unicorn HRO Blog

Implementing a Winning Wellness Program

Posted Thursday, June 02, 2016 by Unicorn HRO

There are an increasing number of companies that are beginning to offer wellness programs as part of their traditional benefits package. Wellness programs aim to help improve employees’ health and offer a variety of benefits to both the employer and employee. By improving employee health, wellness programs can lower healthcare costs associated with chronic illness, as well as reduce injuries, staff absenteeism, workers’ compensation claims, and disability-related costs. They can also improve employee morale and productivity. Here are some steps in designing a winning wellness program tailored to your organizations’ individual needs.

1.Establish Goals

When implementing a wellness program, the first step is to define the goals of the program. For many employers, reducing health care costs, as well as reducing costs associated with health related absences is a top priority. Employers may want to encourage a healthier lifestyle as part of their company’s culture, particularly in health care industries. To do so, employers may want to consult with their health insurance providers to help identify problem areas.  Many insurance providers offer free guidance on the most cost-effective ways to promote healthy living within the company.

2.Level of Involvement

The next step is to decide the level of involvement and intensity of the program. Smaller companies can be restricted in how much time they can dedicate to a wellness program.  They may be unable to invest time in onsite events for their employees, such as health fairs and wellness days. Nevertheless, it is possible to have a low level of involvement and still make an impact. Companies can host smaller events such as annual flu shots, cholesterol readings, and blood drives. Higher levels of involvement are typically seen in larger companies who are able to invest a significant amount of time and money into their wellness programs. These companies often establish relationships with outside vendors to present full day health fairs, as well as holding regular and more comprehensive health screenings in the workplace. In contrast, larger companies are typically able to reward their employees for their participation in health-related activities outside of the workplace, including health-related milestones such as loss of weight or number of non-smoking days.


Implementing a wellness program requires approval from the company’s executives. To get their permission, data is required regarding the potential return on investment as well as the time taken to see this return. Employers need to decide how much they want to contribute and within what budget they need to work. Applying metrics to measure the effectiveness of the program in areas such as absenteeism and employee use of health insurance, helps employers to monitor and track the performance of the program over time. Tracking qualitative data such as the effects of the program on employee morale is a valuable metric which provides more detailed information on employees’ opinions and experiences of the wellness program. Qualitative data can be recorded through focus groups and in-depth interviews with staff.


Rewards are based on the simple principle of positive reinforcement. Rewards increase the likelihood that employees will participate in wellness programs and repeat actions associated with healthy living. if these actions are rewarded. When accessing services such as health care, people tend to use such services reactively, not preventatively. This means that when employees experience health problems, the services needed for them might be greater in the long run, and costlier.  Introducing external rewards such as gifts, discounts on health insurance or monetary awards, encourage employees to engage in preventative health care, reducing these costs.

5.Communicate Policy to employees

Lastly, employers need to communicate the goals of their new program to employees. Presenting the plan to your employees in a clear statement, detailing how the policy would work and the benefits to the employee, increases participation and ROI.

These are just some of the ways in which employers can implement wellness programs, but each program can be tailored to meet the specific needs of employers, the industry and the company budget. No matter how small or comprehensive the program, the benefits to wellness programs are numerous and can greatly reduce an employer’s healthcare cost contributions while improving employees’ mental and physical health.

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