Consider the fact that an estimated 97 percent of large employers say they currently offer some sort of workplace wellness program and plan to continue this effort in the future. In addition, employee health management is woven into the very fiber of the Affordable Care Act, which is driving health care providers to spend more time educating patients on prevention and connecting to employer-sponsored wellness programs.

Best practices

These employer-sponsored programs are by far the most common form of wellness offering. Employee health management programs, grounded in evidence-based science and best practices, have been shown to deliver results for the companies that sponsor them, and for the individual participants.

"Ninety-seven percent of large employers say they currently offer some sort of workplace wellness program and plan to continue this effort in the future."

But successful health management programs that improve health and drive long-term behavior change do not happen through an annual incentive program or a weight-loss campaign alone, but by building an environment that supports health and makes the healthy choice the easy choice.

Creating and fostering a culture that supports long-term health improvement requires the following elements to be in play:

  • Employers should build health into their corporate mission and weave it into the fiber of their workplace so that employees do not see wellness as something that their employer does “to” them, but something that is simply part of their daily work environment. If health is embedded into the fiber of the company, it will not waver with leadership changes or budget fluctuations. For example, providing healthy dining options for work events and meetings, encouraging breaks for physical activity or stress management during the day, and ensuring that leadership at all levels supports employee health.

  • Wellness programs should be comprehensive in nature and address the broader health needs of all employees—from those that are fit and healthy to those who are at risk for chronic conditions. Companies that have the most success with workplace wellness adhere to a core set of best practices for wellness program success and realize that good health happens over time—not during a one-day health screening or a six-month competition.

  • Employers and community leaders can collaborate to improve the health of the communities where their employees live and work. When employers become actively involved in community health, they can better support their corporate health goals—whether they aim to reduce obesity or reduce tobacco use among their employees—while creating a healthier more competitive workforce for the future. A new initiative called “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Communities” gives employers the resources and support to help them determine how they can have the greatest impact on workplace and community health, along with the tools and a roadmap for putting a plan into action.

Employers can, and do, play a critical role in shaping the future health of our country and the world. This is a responsibility that employers of all shapes and sizes are embracing and that is most successful when it stems from a supportive environment.