Building a Wellness Program 101

By Rita Pyrillis

Jun. 3, 2016

While large employers are leading the way in corporate wellness, smaller companies that have been struggling to catch up are getting some help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which recently released a step-by-step guide to designing a successful wellness program.

“This speaks to the small midmarket companies,” said Jenn Roberts, a wellness expert and Mercer consultant based in Houston. “There’s so much going on with wellness since the passage of the ACA, but there are still a lot of employers that don’t really have a wellness program. The chamber asked us to come up with five to 10 steps to help them.”

Roberts and her co-authors contributed a chapter to the 40-page report highlighting best practices for employee wellness, including “10 essential steps” for developing a workplace wellness program. The guide takes employers from the first step of assessing their organization’s readiness for a wellness program to developing a multiyear plan to creating the right incentives for specific behaviors and ultimately to conducting a financial analysis of the program.

“If someone is just getting started in wellness or has a wellness program but maybe is not measuring outcomes, this guide speaks to them,” Roberts said. “It’s also useful for large employers who are already doing those things but need a refresh.”

Other chapters focus on how well-designed programs can benefit both the company and employees and how to create incentives that comply with federal, state and local laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996; Americans with Disabilities Act; and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The report, titled “Winning With Wellness,” is a collaboration of leading experts and academics. Employers can download a free copy through the Chamber of Commerce website.

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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