Improve Your ROI With a Wellness Diagnostic

Studies have shown that businesses that implement health and wellness programs see improvements in productivity, recruiting efforts and workplace morale, as well as decreases in absenteeism, insurance costs and internal conflicts. Studies typically demonstrate a $4 to $5 saving for every one dollar invested in health promotion. With a well-structured program, employees will perform at their maximum potential because they are more invested in their work and more loyal to the company.

However, every workforce has a different profile when it comes to the health of employees and the health of the business as a whole. Therefore, before implementing a wellness program and making costly investments (such as installing a fitness centre, for example), it is essential to identify the specific issues that are affecting the workforce and the company’s bottom line. Simply put, employers must conduct a diagnostic to assess the wellness of their employees and their organizations. However, not all diagnostics are created equal.

Objectives of a wellness diagnostic

A wellness diagnostic must provide an organization-wide measurement of the health and wellness of employees and determine those employees’ needs. A practical diagnostic will identify the specific health and wellness issues that have the biggest impact on the company. The diagnostic should also generate an accurate picture of the general health-and any health risks-of the company as a whole. In other words, simply analyzing the physical health and lifestyle choices of employees won’t cut it; employers must assess the wellness of the organization itself, by analyzing communication efforts, job satisfaction, workload balance and the causes of stress in the workplace.

If a diagnostic achieves these objectives, it will provide a foundation upon which employers can build a structured wellness program. A corporate wellness diagnostic will allow managers to identify problems, set goals, and measure the results and the impact to the organization. It should also provide a comparison to past initiatives and to the competition.

After understanding the objectives of a diagnostic and the reasons for conducting one, managers must determine what different types of diagnostics are out there, and which particular diagnostic is right for their business.

Elements of a successful diagnostic

Most large companies rely on a health risk assessment (HRA) to diagnose the health of their employees. While this type of diagnostic has advantages, HRAs do have some shortcomings. For instance, employees cannot participate anonymously, because they each take part in a one-on-one health assessment. The upside of this is that each employee is provided with an individualized health report, but their responses are likely to be censored if they know their employer can review them. What’s more, it can be difficult to incite healthy habits among employees when they are each working off of an individual report. For a wellness program to truly be successful, it must focus on the bigger picture, so an HRA needs to be complemented with a more thorough diagnostic.

A good corporate wellness diagnostic must be easily accessible and not overly long or complicated, in order to ensure strong employee participation. Participation should be voluntary and employees must feel comfortable taking part; ideally, they would do so in a calm, non-stressful place, and they shouldn’t find the survey too tedious or too personal. To obtain honest answers about sensitive subject matter such as drug and alcohol use, employer approval and job satisfaction, employees should be assured their responses will remain anonymous. To facilitate maximum participation and honesty, the diagnostic should be conducted by an objective source and the importance of answering honestly must be well communicated to the workforce. This last point cannot be stressed enough.

The diagnostic should provide a global perspective on the health of a business, while also providing detailed statistical analyses of each individual issue addressed. It should be made up of at least three different sections that correspond to the three essential components of health and wellness: lifestyle choices, physical health and psychological health.

Any diagnostic must include a focus on lifestyle aspects that strongly correlate with wellness, such as nutrition, exercise, sleep and tobacco, alcohol and drug use. Lifestyle choices have a huge impact on health costs; in fact, preventable illness makes up approximately 70% of the burden of illness and the associated costs. Unfortunately, most people do not prevent these illnesses simply because they are making the wrong lifestyle choices.

Separate from issues related to lifestyle, but equally important, is the assessment of physical health. This section should cover medical problems and physical disorders that may affect employees; it should take into account chronic diseases and other health problems that affect insurance claims. (If you have operations in the U.S., bear in mind that questions related to family medical history are not permitted by U.S. law if employees are given an incentive to take part in an HRA.)

A smart diagnostic will include an evaluation of what is sometimes known as organizational health-that is, all the factors that affect employee productivity and morale in a given workplace.

The next critical section of a good corporate wellness diagnostic is an assessment of the psychological wellbeing of employees. It is not necessary to test employees for mental instability or psychological issues, but rather for their ability to handle stress at home and work, and their ability to maintain healthy relationships with their colleagues. Stress has a huge impact on productivity and insurance claims, and the current trends of layoffs and increased workload are only serving to further increase stress levels.

I should point out that health-related costs and weak productivity are not caused solely by employees and their behaviors. As mentioned earlier, many employers rely on an HRA to diagnose the health of their business, but neglect to analyze workplace issues that are affecting employee health. This can create an environment where employees feel they are under the magnifying glass, and even a sense that they are being blamed. It also leaves employers with an incomplete understanding of health and wellness in their company.

This is a common problem with unsuccessful wellness programs: there is a narrow focus on individuals’ health-related attitudes and behavior, often to the exclusion of job, organization and management factors that affect employee health and wellbeing. A smart diagnostic will include an evaluation of what is sometimes known as organizational health-that is, all the factors that affect employee productivity and morale in a given workplace. These factors could include job satisfaction, workload, stress and co-worker relations, including relations between managers and employees.

A thorough employee wellness diagnostic is an essential tool; every successful wellness program is based around the results of a diagnostic. By analyzing potential problems in the workplace, the lifestyle choices of employees and their physical and emotional wellness, employers can determine which problems are directly impacting the organization. Building their program to focus on these problems maximizes the potential return on investment.

In essence, a comprehensive diagnostic provides employers with a clear and detailed understanding of the health of their business as a whole, so they know what goals their wellness program needs to achie

Corporate Health, Stealth and Wealth

A personal sense of well being has a huge influence on corporate engagement – their sense of self worth & contribution potential. Engagement has 3 core facets:

• intellectual engagement, or thinking hard about the job and how to do it better

• affective engagement, or feeling positively about doing a good job

• social engagement, or actively taking opportunities to discuss work-related improvements with others at work.

The secret to success – We cannot expect employee performance if not physiologically capable of performance parameters. Implicitly, corporate engagement comes down to – focus, cognitive strength, physical stamina & ability to intellectually process data. Having the ability to not let mind clutter infiltrate & sabotage their thought processes, a sense of power to want to accomplish & prove themselves all contribute to employee performance. if the body is not supporting their drive – they can’t do it and whipping the racehorse by threatening dismissal – nah that doesn’t work either.

There are some fascinating studies on testosterone levels, in both men & women, how these people are advantaged in the workplace, their intense desire to perform & move ahead. Healthy testosterone levels go along with a complete, healthy lifestyle including restorative sleep, good nutrition & a good level of physical activity.

It is very possible that a person’s diet is compromising their body’s production of serotonin, harming the gut understanding how that is affecting their focus, or simply not giving them either focus or strength to perform. People need the ability, the health, the physiological support to be engaged, but unfortunately corporate health programs are too generic, not meeting participants’ needs. Tell me, is the nutritional advice the same for a person who body builds with 10 % body fat vs. someone fearful of exercise & has a body fat of 35%? So… if they ask for a nutrition program… they get the same food guide diet?

A thorough corporate wellness program should cover a full range of health diagnostics & health counseling. Yes weight management, exercise, nutrition… but also smoking cessation, sleep, many forms of stress management, relationship stress, medical risk factors, chronic disease management, disease prevention, self efficacy, but most of all the program has to help the participant to connect the dots. So yes, the program has to be designed for the participant’s own unique combination of lifestyle & health challenges, but also provides an integrative, smooth, embraceable approach helping the participant understand how the challenges are all interrelated. The new approach will provide calm & control, inner peace & power, not be intimidating or intrusive!

A thorough assessor & assessment are extremely key to the success of the program. The 5 “A” s, Ask, Assess, Advise, Assist & Arrange – but each one needs to serve as a template for discovery & trial. It is a journey of discovery, providing deep introspection for the employee & allowing them to build their own program based on their needs. Providers have the potential of discovering issues & triggers that the participant themselves did not fathom the potential as a health saboteur.

In every form of health modification, there is a very strong dose-response relation – targeting focus & impact of the counseling is directly related to success achieving the desired health outcome. Specialized providers through a detailed lifestyle analysis can match the employee to the health coaches best suited for the person, and with the participants permission – coaches in a truly individualized program, can exchange information, ideas, protocol… all to assure consistent messages & support are being provided. The assessor can also perform as a coordinator of the entire program for the participant.

Time: A good program coordinator, provider, health coach knows that “I have no time” is an excuse. Clearly, incorrect programs have been presented before, that were not respectful of time & employee demands. Any program on any topic of health modification, must have an endless supply of creative alternatives for reaching the goal, try them out, tweak, adjust, maybe even back to the drawing board… these are all normal growing pains of a program. We have to have the rapport, the ability to capture the participant’s faith & trust t be willing to try new possibly absurd ideas… that just could work!

Meaningfulness is the most important driver of engagement for people- providing a meaningful program… designed to empower participants to self efficacy & strength, not defeat – that is how we bring out the very best in a person. No more automated superficial programs based on generalized populations – but lets get to each & everyone’s own little ecosystem!

Shira Litwack… proud creator of thousands of health & fitness enthusiasts worldwide
Medical Fitness Professional, Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach, Fitness & Nutrition for chronic illness recovery, online Health & nutritional tracking
Radio Talk Show Host/Producer bestinhealthradio
Director of Health Mentoring & External Resources Canada Obesity Control Center
Cancerfitcare Provider & Regional Director