Dr. Grace Keenan, the founder and CEO of Nova Medical Group, saw the need for employee wellness in 2011 when evaluating the company’s increasing health insurance costs. After reviewing research and further understanding all of the benefits of an employee wellness program (i.e. more productive employees, improved culture, increased retention rates, potential reduction in healthcare costs, etc.), we decided to do two things – 1. Implement a year long, comprehensive employee wellness program within the company, and 2. Shop around for a different insurance carrier in hopes to highlight this and lower our rates.
We started off by having smaller wellness initiatives in 2012 to introduce our employees to wellness and set the stage to implement a comprehensive plan. These initiatives also allowed for us to be more competitive in switching insurance carriers and through our switch, we were able to save about $84,000 by showcasing our proactive approach to healthcare. Part of these savings were allocated towards an employee wellness budget, which prior to this, was very minimal. And our comprehensive employee wellness program, Vibrance 180, was implemented in May of 2013.
2. Was the program developed in-house, or did you use a consultant?
The program was developed in house. Our approach was to not only identify what our company needed out of a wellness program, but also what our employees wanted out of one. That has been our secret to engagement and success.
First, we got the numbers together to determine our need for a program – pulling healthcare and pharmacy costs, retention rates, worker’s compensation claims, absenteeism rates, and population health data through a Health Risk Assessment that we incentivized our employees to take. Then, we sought out what our employees would want in a wellness program – we started a volunteer Wellness Committee, surveyed employees, and tried out different approaches to find what would go over well and what wasn’t as well received.
3. Tell us some of the key components of your wellness program, and any unique aspects you’d like to share about it.Our wellness program, Vibrance 180, has three components:
- Learn about your health status
- Engage in activities to better your health status
- Earn rewards for making smart healthcare decisions
What is unique about our rewards (which we call “Wellness Dollars”) is that they can only be spent on services and activities that promote health. Some of the many things that Wellness Dollars can be used for are at our onsite healthy café, for a fitness membership, to purchase a Fitbit, on yoga classes, to purchase a sitting to standing desk or exercise ball for chair, for a CSA membership, and at our Medical Spa. Many companies incentivize with cash on the paycheck and, while we hope this isn’t the case, there is no way of knowing if employees use that money on things that don’t promote health like unhealthy meals or cigarettes. The activities that are a part of our program include reaching goals with our Health & Wellness Coach, getting an annual physical, meeting monthly physical activity goals, and managing weight.
Additionally, we have really focused on the changing the environment and culture here at Nova Medical Group to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our employees. We opened up an onsite fitness center, healthy food café, meditation room, removed our soda machines, and implemented seven minute workout breaks throughout the day.
4. What are some challenges that you’ve had to overcome with your program? How has it evolved over time?
Our program is constantly evolving. We seek out continual feedback from our employees, and perform an annual evaluation on data from Human Resources & the Health Risk Assessment to ensure that the programs we are offering are actually making a positive impact. Starting any new program is challenging, and we have definitely have some learning curves along the way. Being a medical practice, many of our employees work varied hours and long shifts so we have experienced some challenges with engagement in that sense. We found that offering a program or a seminar at a defined time produces low attendance rates, regardless if the interest is there. Now, we utilize an online Wellness Portal that employees can access anywhere and at any time, and most of our initiatives are housed there. So employees don’t physically need to attend a seminar, they can watch a video on it. Or employees don’t need to show up to a fitness class, but they can track their activity minutes or sync their Fitbit to the Wellness Portal to prove they were active that day.
5. How has the program been received by employees? What percentage of your employees participate? What benefits have resulted?
In 2015, we had 59% of our employees participate in our wellness program – a 25% increase from the previous year. Each year, we not only strive to increase the amount of people who enroll in our program, but more importantly we strive to improve our results. With a well-designed program that incorporates employee feedback, it is surprisingly easy to get people on board but making an impact in their lives is much more of a challenge.
Here are some of the results that we have seen since our wellness program’s inception:
- Turnover amongst employees who are in our wellness program is 29% lower than company turnover
- 11% decrease in overweight/obese employees
- 6% decrease in those with diabetes/pre-diabetes
- 13% decrease in the number of employees who don’t know their blood pressure
- 14% decrease in the number of employees who don’t know their cholesterol
- 5% improvement in fruit/vegetable intake
- 5% decrease in the number of sedentary employees
- 25% decrease in the number of employees with no exercise program
- 1% decrease in tobacco users
- 5% decrease in the number of stressed employees
We don’t just focus on hard numbers, though, which is where VOI (or value of investment) comes into play. In my opinion, it is just as important for a company to evaluate how your wellness program is impacting things like office morale and recruitment of good talent.
6. What advice can you offer other businesses that are considering a workplace wellness program?
Do it! A well designed program can impact so many different aspects of your business and your employees’ lives. Research best practices and talk to other businesses that already have an employee wellness program in place to gain more insight. Make it fun! Employees will then be more attracted to the program and engaged in it. And don’t forget to talk to your employees and evaluate your program (both the hard measures and soft impacts), continuously.