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Employee Wellness Programs – What to Consider before Investing

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A large study, “Ten Modifiable Health Risk Factors Are Linked To More Than One-Fifth Of Employer-Employee Health Care Spending“, showed that 22.4% of the $366 million USD that employers and their employees spent annually on employee wellness was attributed to ten modifiable risk factors: obesity, depression, physical inactivity, high blood glucose, smoking, high blood pressure, high stress, high cholesterol, high alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition.

These findings appear to justify the investment in employee wellness programs, but choosing the right wellness program is key. Typical programs depend on the employees’ ability to adopt healthier lifestyles. For most people, behavior change is really difficult to achieve, and even harder to sustain over one’s lifetime.  According to the New England Journal of Medicine, individual behavior accounts for 40% of the average person’s health status. Employee wellness programs are often generic cheerleading exercises and fail to identify our personal and unique combination of internal motivations and challenges plus external social influences that can either encourage or inhibit our ability to make healthier choices.

Before you embark on implementing an employee wellness program at your company, consider programs that provide on-going, personalized support to employees and also incorporate the participation of the employees’ personal social network.  Here is why:

First, personal health coaching addresses each person’s unique internal motivations and challenges. For close to five years, NexJ Connected Wellness has been used by health care professionals to deliver personal health coaching.  We have worked with leading academics to develop health coaching protocols based on cognitive behavioral therapy and Connected Wellness has been used in more than 20 research trials.  Most recently, NexJ completed a trial with Rogers Communications, one of Canada’s largest employers and results are expected later this year.

Second, the NexJ Connected Wellness Circle of Care enables employers to enlist the help of social influences.  Social influences are an essential element of healthy behavior change. Social influences can affect population health issues from obesity to smoking and this is important for the practical design of intervention strategies. The Circle of Care is an individual’s personal network of family, friends and advocates – anyone an individual chooses to support them in their health and wellness. It is created and controlled by the individual. Individuals can share their personal health information with members of their Circle of Care so they receive support in achieving their health and wellness goals. Evidence shows that behaviors spread faster and produce greater overall adoption when shared through trusted network like the Circle of Care.

The potential value of wellness programs for employers seems clear, however, this value often goes unrealized with generic programs that fail to target key factors of behavior change.  To achieve the promised value of wellness programs employers should consider personal health coaching and enlisting social influences through the circle of care to help employees achieve and sustain healthier lifestyles.