Do you wear your seat belt when riding in a car?
Do you have a good friend at work?
Do you smoke?
Do you drink fewer than five alcoholic beverages per week?
If you’ve seen these questions, it’s fairly certain you’ve participated in a questionnaire from an insurance program. Such information-gathering efforts are often part of wellness programs designed to help employees keep track of their health and health risks. Providing such a service is an important tool for employers to not only ensure employees remain healthy, but also to help keep insurance costs down.
One such program, the Wellness401k adopted by The Tedrick Group, a risk management solutions company in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, is designed as an employee wellness investment program. Wellness401k was developed by Ottawa Kent, an independent insurance agency and risk management company based near Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“If you’re going to invest financially in yourself, you should invest in a wellness standpoint as well,” says Scott Giles, a risk management consultant at The Tedrick Group. “This provides an avenue for employees to live a healthier lifestyle and enjoy their retirement and also allows the employer to see benefits in decline of health insurance costs.”
For Giles, approaching wellness with a long-term vision makes sense. Most companies offer a traditional financial 401k program that provides some sort of future financial security for employees. The Wellness401k concept provides a wellness standpoint for employees so they will be able to enjoy their retirement years, he says.
“You want to be able to invest your money throughout the years so you can be healthy enough to enjoy retirement and do the things you want to do,” Giles says. “When it comes to future investing, there should be a wellness component.”
According to the Small Business Administration, 93 percent of small businesses believe healthy employees are good for the overall success of business. However, the National Small Business Association reports that only 22 percent of businesses have implemented wellness programs.
Ricki Williams, chief financial officer of Community Media Group and a client of Giles’, says Wellness401k provides tremendous benefits to employees and employers. Although Williams has not gone through the program yet, she has seen a remarkable effect on employees who have already begun their wellness journey, she says.
Williams and her colleagues at Community Media Group tapped Giles to implement Wellness401k after reviewing the program’s approach and seeing how beneficial it would be for the company. She says the Tedrick approach offers “a lot of value” for employees and employers alike.
“It came together and it all made sense,” Williams says.
The concept of explaining how improved personal health will allow people to enjoy their retirement years provides a fairly clear vision for employees, she adds.
“It’s easy to explain and it’s something that people just get,” Williams says. “You can see why it’s such a good idea and it’s gotten everyone’s attention. You could see the light bulbs go off in people’s heads when it was put in the 401k terms. They started listening then.”
Pillars of Health
Wellness401k is administered by Ottawa Kent and WellSafe Coaches, and is based on the Five Pillars of Health and Wellness developed by Dee W. Edington of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center. The five pillars are: senior leadership, operations leadership, self-leadership, reward positive actions, and quality assurance.
Through the wellness program, Giles says an initial health assessment provides participating employees with feedback on their own health. An assessment could also include blood draws to determine cholesterol or uric acid levels, and blood pressure testing.
But it’s not just the employees who gain information about their personal health. Giles says employers who use programs like Wellness401k are provided with an “anonymous, aggregated look” at the company’s employees. The information gleaned from the assessments can reveal to employers if there is a preponderance of diabetes or a large number of smokers within the workforce. From that information, employers can provide various services to help their employees address any health concerns, such as access to nutritionists or smoking cessation programs.
“If you’re contemplating quitting, they can provide tools to help you do that, such as access to counselors or talking about nicotine gum or prescriptions that can help them quit,” Giles says. “If you don’t want to quit, then they can provide basic information on why you should quit, such as basic stats on what smoking does to your body and your life expectancy. There are any number of paths an employer can take.”
Since Community Media Group implemented the Wellness401k program about a year ago, Williams has seen a positive difference in the lives of some employees with whom she has close relationships. Many have quit smoking and lost weight, she says.
Zach Payer, managing director of Community Media Group, says the assessment was easy to complete, and within weeks he received results, including specific recommendations on how to manage his health.
“The health risk assessment offered by Tedrick was simple, comforting and non-threatening,” Payer says. “It didn’t take more than a few minutes to complete… and provided a great value of investing in my personal health.”
Giles says the Tedrick Group adopted Wellness401k in early 2016, with several client companies having already adopted the program. Three of Giles’ client companies in central and southern Illinois have done so, and his goal is to get the program into about 75 percent of his client companies.
For Williams, the benefits of having Wellness401k have been enormous, because healthy employees lead to a healthy company.
“It’s a win-win all the way around,” she says.