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Discovering New Approaches to Workplace Health

by Guest Writter
Derek Newell, CEO, Jiff

Over 100 million US workers receive health insurance through their employers. And provisions in the Affordable Care Act give those companies additional incentives to help their employees be more proactive about their health. As a result, HR departments are spending more time and money on employee health and wellness than ever before. For self-insuring employers looking to control costs — and smart employees looking to control health insurance premiums– robust and engaging employee health programs can be a great solution.

But it better be good

It’s not enough to simply offer an employee health program. It has to be a great one. A recent Gallup survey found that at companies offering health programs, only 24 percent of employees are actively participating. That’s usually because the program is outdated and an unattractive human experience.

5 elements of successful workplace health programs

Whether your company currently offers a health program or you’re looking to kick one off on the right foot, here are five steps your company can take to get your program moving.

  1. Make it fun. Make it mobile. With addictive games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga on every iPhone, consumers are used to simple, fun, and beautiful apps—making the bar high for any employee health program.  Companies who want to keep their employees interested should build unique, game-oriented, mobile-first health experiences. Be sure to create social communities and features that allow employees to interact with other participants- by either encouraging them or talking smack. Bonus: These social features might just improve communication, build teams, and boost employee morale.
  2. Keep it secure. Employee privacy issues are a real concern for any company when collecting health data, both for legal reasons and employee resistance. Make sure your program and all of your third party vendors are HIPAA complainant and that you’re only collecting employee data only at an aggregate, de-personalized level. And of course, making health programs opt-in will go a long way in earning trust from your employees.
  3. Break it down. “Lose 20 pounds.” “Only eat healthy food.” Health goals that are too big or too broad can be intimidating, and ultimately demotivating. Employee health programs that break health and health goals into daily action lists help individuals understand the “next best thing” they can do to improve their health, help build healthy habits, and offer small accomplishments which can lead to long term success. These daily action items can apply to traditional items such as health risk assessments (via a “question of the day” format) as well as anything measurable in the digital health marketplace through apps and wearable devices, such as activity monitoring, meal tracking, and stress management.
  4. Reward in Real-time. Begin offering incentives to employees on the first day, such as awarding points or incentives just for signing up or linking an activity tracker. Real-time rewards will create a tangible action-outcome-reward loop for employees that will keep them coming back for more and will certainly be more compelling than the traditional one-time, annual model. Speaking of rewards, successful employee health programs get creative with the types of incentives they offer. HSA contributions and premium reductions are valuable to employees, but charitable donations, a subscription to Netflix, or extra vacation days could be more compelling. And might even be easier on your budget.
  5. Make it BYOD. The explosive popularity of consumer digital health wearable devices, apps and services are transforming health and healthcare. Consumers currently have over 40,000 mobile health apps to choose from as they work towards personal fitness goals and 8 million activity-tracking wristbands are expected to ship this year alone. There’s a device or app for everyone, and employees want to use their favorites when working toward employer-sponsored health goals. Integrating with tens of thousands of devices and apps might seem intimidating (or near impossible) but look for a vendor that offers a platform with a one-click connection to all of these different consumer health tools.

 

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