Health for hire

Posted on Jan 12, 2016 :: Health & Wellness , Insight On
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

With a new year comes new resolutions and many Northeast Wisconsin companies are finding ways to help employees stay on top of those resolutions to improve their health.

According to a study done by Healthcare Trends Institute, 76 percent of employers offered some type of wellness program, resource or service to its employees in 2014.

In Northeast Wisconsin, many small and large businesses offer wellness programs or other health initiatives to their employees. It’s one thing to offer, though, and quite another to get participation in the programs.

For companies like Miller Electric, employee health is high on the priority list. Besides offering an onsite ThedaCare clinic, the company offers a wellness program for its employees. As a way to get its workers involved in living healthier lives, belonging to this program and participating in the activities can provide some pretty nice perks.

“If employees do health-risk assessments, they get a reduction in their health premium,” says Linda Pintar, benefits manager for Miller Electric. “They are also entered into drawings where they can win $5,000 in travel vouchers, free premiums for a year and gift cards that relate to wellness.”

In 2015, the company had 87 percent of its workforce participate in voluntary health risk assessments, which consist of biometric screening and an online personal health assessment, Pintar says.

“These programs and incentives have really worked for us because as we looked at our statistics over the last four years, we have stabilized our unhealthy weight category two years in a row,” Pintar says. “We have also seen 4.8 percent of our workforce move out of the high- risk category.”

The survey conducted by Healthcare Trends Institute says 87 percent of employers nationwide offer incentives/disincentives for participation in wellness programs.

For companies that do not offer onsite wellness centers, assisting employees with joining gyms or wellness centers in the area is a common tactic.

“Our goal is to get people engaged in their wellness,” says Patrick Dier, human resource director — operations for Neenah Paper.

Dier also says some larger initiatives include reimbursing employees 50 percent of their single or family membership at any area YMCA or health club. As a fun way to promote wellness and the overall corporation, Dier says there are ways outside of the office to encourage a healthier lifestyle. This past year, Neenah Paper had five teams of employees participate in the 2015 Fox Cities Relay Marathon.

Since the company began promoting employee participation in the wellness program, Dier says health insurance costs have been lower than average the past several years.

“We continue to promote the use of preventative screenings and the introduction of a Consumer Driven Health Plan,” Dier says. “This has created more employee control over their medical spend and should help continue to drive our medical increases below the national trend.”

Working with companies

For companies that aren’t quite sure what type of program to offer employees, there is help, such as Absolute Wellness in Appleton, a company dedicated to planning and executing wellness programs for large and small businesses.

Jen Parsons, founder of Absolute Wellness, says a lot of planning goes into setting up a successful wellness program, and that a single, overall plan might not work for all of the employees.

“We offer wellness on a more personalized level and create programs based on the needs of the company or organization,” Parsons says.

According to Parsons, consistency and introducing new things regularly are more likely to raise the effectiveness of wellness programs. Most companies conduct individual HRAs to assess each employee’s need, but it is also important to conduct an overall HRA to get an idea of what kind of programs the employees would be interested in.

Above all, there is one tactic that seems to get great reviews among companies that provide wellness programs: incentives.

Like Miller Electric and Neenah Paper, Parsons finds success in offering incentives to employees on different levels of participation.

“All of the programs that we administer or that we help provide, the incentives are always scaled to participation,” Parsons says. “For example, if a person wins, they win maybe a grand prize. And then there is a grand prize for most participation. Incentives can also be given for progress.”

With more initiative taken at a local level, employers are hoping their efforts to create a healthier workforce shapes into a nationwide movement in future years.

“We understand that a healthy workforce is happier and more productive,” Pintar says. “And if we can strengthen this movement locally, it will influence other regions and spread awareness across the nation.”