A worksite wellness program is an organized set of activities or programs that encourage employees and their family members to voluntarily adopt behaviors that help improve their health and enhance their performance.(Chapman, Small Employers: Options for Implementing Wellness, 2006).
 Best practices to establish a wellness program
- First, get leadership buy-in and active support. Employees will quickly dismiss wellness and prevention programs if they do not see the leadership "walking the talk".
- An active and robust wellness committee is effective. Successful strategies include:
- Committee membership distributed through the organization.
- Membership diversity by sex and age provide different life perspectives and health issues. Diversity of work types is beneficial also.
- Membership turnover on the committee helps spread the education and experience.
- Small rewards work as incentives. Many programs have found success with small prizes or small cash rewards of $100 or less.
- Have a monthly topic for education and promotion. Examples are nutrition, Flu and other vaccinations, blood pressure and heart disease, smoking cessation and stress.
- Review your health insurance benefit plan to make sure it parallels your workplace wellness program. Are the incentives and disincentives in concert with the vision and goals of the workplace wellness program?
- Create a Wellness definition for your organization and employees. This is a good starting task for the wellness committee.
- A definition example: Wellness is the optimal state of health for each individual including physical, mental and emotional health.
 Prioritizing wellness strategies
Partnership for Prevention conducted a detailed and careful study that ranks by health impact and cost effectiveness 25 clinical preventive services File:Priorities for americas health executive summary.pdf
 What is success?
Experience has shown it is very difficult to get high participation rates of employees in any specific prevention or wellness practice. Many consider 50-60% participation a good result. High participation rates of 90% have been achieved by some organizations but are not typical and may require incentives.
 Available local resources
There are many free available local resources for organizations desiring to establish or expand a workplace wellness program:
- Insurance brokers
- Third party administrators
- Health insurance companies
- Local hospitals
- Public health agencies
For example, many of these groups will participate at no charge in health fairs at the workplace, provide materials and guest speakers.
 Related Best Practices
- The National Healthy Worksite Program (NHWP) is designed to assist employers in implementing science and practice-based prevention and wellness strategies that will lead to specific, measureable health outcomes to reduce chronic disease rates. The site includes free downloadable Resources and Toolkit.
- WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) in an employer association with 5,000+ members that has built an array of resources and best practices for its members over 25 years. There are both free and fee based resources.
- Healthy Employees, Healthy Business - Easy, Affordable Ways to Promote Workplace Wellness, Ilona Bray, J.D., February 2012, 2nd Edition. Published by NOLO, Law for All, this instructional book will help any organization studying or implementing a wellness program; including helpful worksheets and checklists. The website has many specific articles on wellness.
- Advancing Wellness has a website, newsletter and blog with many ideas, case studies and best practices for small organizations on wellness and specializes in consulting and wellness project management.
- FAIR Health is a national, independent, not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to bring transparency to healthcare costs and health insurance information. They strive to develop robust, unbiased data products and solutions to meet the needs of those we serve, which includes all stakeholders in the healthcare sector, including cost lookup tools for consumers.
- CMS website
- Partnership for Prevention has many resources, including a detailed and careful study that ranks by health impact and cost effectiveness 25 clinical preventive services File:Priorities for americas health executive summary.pdf
- Case Studies by Partnership for Prevention of workplace wellness programs in many types of organizations and employers File:Leading by example - case study and strategies.pdf
- Workplace Wellness Programs Study, Soeren Mattke, Hangsheng Liu, John P. Caloyeras, Christina Y. Huang, Kristin R. Van Busum, Dmitry Khodyakov, Victoria Shier, RAND Health, Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013. The lengthy study and survey focuses on four questions:
- What are the characteristics and prevalence of current workplace wellness programs?
- What is the evidence for program impact?
- What is the role of incentives under wellness programs?
- What are key facilitators of successful wellness programs?
- Financial Incentives and Workplace Wellness-ProgramParticipation, Paul Fronstin, Ph.D., Employee Benefit Research Institute, and M. Christopher Roebuck, Ph.D., RxEconomics, 2015. Case study of large firm and how alteration of incentives changed participation rates in wellness and prevention programs.
- Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, Katherine Baicker, David Cutler and Zirui Song, Health Affairs, 2010. This study found that,"... medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent."
The author of this article is Terry Gardiner.
Terry Gardiner is the founder and President of Silver Lining Seafoods and NorQuest Seafoods - a medium size Alaska seafood processing companies; and currently Board member of the Anvil Corporation, an employee owned company specializing in oil and gas engineering.
His co-operative experiences include member director of the Commercial Fishermen Co-operative association; creation of legislation for the Alaska Commercial Fishing and Agriculture Bank; and advisor to the US Dept of Health and Social Services for the state Health CO-OPs.
Terry served ten years as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives -several legislative committee chairmanships, Speaker of the House, Chairman of the Alaska Criminal Code Commission and board member on various state and federal boards and commissions.
Terry authored the leadership book, "Six-Word Lessons to Build Effective Leaders: 100 Lessons to Equip Your People to Create Winning Organizations".