Blog 3/27/2019

Tips for Communicating About Your Company Wellness Program

Here’s some sobering news:

  • 80% of Americans work in jobs that require little to no physical activity;
  • 78% feel stressed by their jobs;
  • More than one-third of Americans are overweight or obese; and
  • 60% of us have one or more chronic health conditions.

The result? Employers are losing hundreds of billions in costs related to lost productivity.

To combat this trend, employers are expanding on their wellness programs to encourage healthy habits, often offering financial incentives to increase participation. In fact, according to DirectPath’s 2019 Medical Trends & Observations Report, over 40% of employers are offering an incentive (premium reduction, contributions to HSAs or HRAs, or gift cards) for participation in at least one wellness activity, up from 31% last year. However, just offering a wellness program and incentives won’t change a thing if employees lack motivation to participate or don’t understand how the program could benefit them both physically and financially. After all, one in three employees say their employer needs to improve at getting them excited about their wellness program.

Hence the need for a robust communications program—one that combines multiple channels, messages and, yes, incentives to engage and excite your employees.

Consider these tips when developing your wellness communication strategy.

Create a Brand

There’s nothing like an eye-catching logo, snappy tagline or vibrant colors to capture the attention of your audience. If you’ve invested in a wellness program for your employees, you’ll want any related communications to be instantly recognizable whenever and wherever it’s seen.

Diversify Your Channels

Just as the most effective wellness programs combine elements (diet and exercise, nicotine patches and counseling), so do the most effective communications strategies. Diversifying your company’s communication channels ensures your wellness message is heard and viewed by all your employees. While traditional channels, such as emails, brochures, and in-person meetings, are still effective, don’t forget to use newer tools like social media and interactive tools to reach employees where they are.

Also, don’t forget to ask your employees which channels they prefer for communication–the answers may surprise you. For example, 55% of U.S. millennials say they prefer in-person communications at work despite their reputation for being “tech savvy,” while boomers spend more time online than other generations.

Make it Personal

Everyone has different wellness goals—some people want to lose weight, while others want to quit smoking or lower their risk of a heart attack. Similarly, each employee is motivated by different methods of engagement. For example, LifeWorks found that male employees are most interested in fitness challenges, health coaching and financial wellness, while female employees are most interested in fitness challenges, health screenings, stress management training and employee assistance programs.

Find out which aspects of your wellness program interest employees the most to ensure they’re highlighted in your communications. Use surveys or one-on-one meetings to help gather this information if needed. Share employee testimonials to get employees excited and humanize the conversation. Highlight any financial incentives, including premium reductions, HSA contributions, or being able to waive tobacco surcharges (for smokers), that employees can receive for completing a wellness activity to show how it benefits not only their health, but also their bank account.

Keep it simple and constant

With 35% of Americans having basic or below-basic health literacy, avoid use of complicated health care terminology when discussing wellness activities. Additionally, language should be inviting as to encourage people to participate rather than scare them off. For example, instead of “weight loss,” use “weight management.” Instead of terms like “financial management,” use “financial well-being.”

Keep your messages short and sweet. Think teasers, billboard, posters, two-minute videos. Tackle one topic at a time—don’t try to cover too much in one communication. Also, like a good exercise regime, communication should continue year-round, not just around specific events like open enrollment.

Remember to include a call to action

Merely reminding employees about your wellness program and incentives is not enough. Include a call to action to help employees take the first step toward participating in the program. Remember—long-term lifestyle and health improvement is the ultimate goal—the program and incentives are just a means to encourage change.

Make it easy for your employees to participate. Include links to sign up for appointments, competitions, or forms they’ll need to complete.  For example, when sharing information about employer-sponsored gym memberships, include a link to the gym’s website sign-up page, if applicable.

Make sure your informational pieces (like a “Know Your Numbers” piece on the importance of lowering cholesterol) include a clear “why it matters/what’s in it for me” statement (lower risk of stroke and heart attack) along with steps employees can take (include more vegetables and whole grains in your diet, eat less red meat, etc.). Outlining clear action steps can help overcome inertia!

By pairing clear, inviting messaging with an effective call-to-action, you help your employees take their first step toward a healthier lifestyle, and hopefully, reduced costs for both your employees and the company.

Interested in learning more about wellness programs and other medical trends affecting employer-sponsored health plans in 2019? Check out our 2019 Medical Trends & Observations Report here.


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