1. Show some numbers.
Do your research and get some data together that supports the cost savings of wellness programs. Our data tends to show an ROI of about $3 for every $1 invested in a program, but recent data suggests that as health care costs escalate, those returns could climb even higher. A self-care program alone can help employees reduce costly doctor and ER visits (averaging over $200 / $700 per visit, respectively) — a significant relief to your health care costs.
Start with this Harvard Business Review study on the hard return of employee wellness programs — some of the most recent and comprehensive hard financial data available. (Harvard shows a $6 to $1 ROI for wellness programs, by the way.)
And our Medical Self-Care Savings white paper shares in-depth results of several independent studies on our self-care guides.
2. Emphasize strategy.
Your company has short-term and long-term strategic priorities in place, as well as core values that guide decisions at the executive level. Do you know what those priorities and core values are?
If not, it’s worth finding out. Why?
Because wellness can be a business strategy. Just ask our friends at the LinkedIn group Wellness is a Business Strategy.
How can a wellness program help your business meet its strategic goals? How does wellness reflect your organization’s values? Answer those questions and you are well on your way to success at the executive table.
3. Find a champion.
Odds are there is at least one person in your organization’s upper ranks who already values wellness. You know the type: hits the gym during lunch, sits on an exercise ball instead of a desk chair, uses the office microwave to steam veggies for lunch, just got back from a yoga retreat, has an enviously healthy snack stash, or bikes to work.
That’s a partnership you can’t pass up. Talk to that person about your interest in starting a wellness and see if (s)he’s on board. Find an advocate for wellness on the executive level, and you’ll have someone to persuade fellow members of the c-suite to get behind your plan. It’s like having a seat at the table.
4. Start small.
Maybe you’ve been dreaming about a wellness program with all the bells and whistles: mobile biometric screening trucks, expensive incentives, a full-fledged fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment and flat-screen TVs, a huge online portal with an exhaustive library of information.
A wellness manager can dream, right? But if you know that your budget is the primary eyebrow-raiser for upper management, don’t despair. An effective, comprehensive wellness program can cost as little as $15 or $20 per employee.
The basics of a low-budget wellness program might include:
- Health risk assessment to determine population risks
- Self-care book
- Telephonic health coaching for lifestyle change programs like weight loss and smoking cessation
- Monthly wellness newsletter
- Online resources: A learning center, e-book, customized nutrition plan, or wellness challenge
- Promotional materials
- Supplemental health education materials (brochures, self-care kits, screening magnets)
We have loads more ideas for promoting wellness on a shoestring budget here.
5. Pilot your program.
If your executive team is still skeptical, consider piloting a program to a sample population. Keep it simple and low-cost, give it 9 months to produce results, and then do a thorough evaluation on how much you spent vs. how much you saved. You can offer a limited sign-up phase for interested employees and then do a random lottery if you have too many registrants.
If your program was successful — if it improved health, reduced costs, and met your goals and the goals of your organization — you’ll have a much easier time convincing upper management to support a company-wide wellness program.