Employee Benefits Consultancy Network


Wellness, or rather the lack of wellness, is a worldwide issue. An unhealthy lifestyle is no longer something specific to the West; obesity has doubled worldwide since 1980. Adding to that is stress, which has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization.


Companies have good reasons to get involved in wellness

Traditionally, employers have managed health by providing isolated medical benefits. However, as benefit costs have continued to rise, companies now have to balance providing the best benefit package against a need to containing cost. A good wellness programme will enable a company to measure and manage the health risks of its population, and will help to reduce costs.

Even in countries where healthcare costs have not increased as dramatically as they have done in the US, or where medical costs are largely covered by social taxes, there are still economic pressures on headcount and payroll costs. A focus on wellness can help companies everywhere by reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.


Best practice in wellness programmes

Employees can get healthier through awareness, education and specific behavior changes. A good programme will empower the employee to make good health choices for themselves. The best plans work holistically to address all areas of a healthy lifestyle, including physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental, and even spiritual needs.


A typical wellness programme may include:


Health Assessments
A simple questionnaire can help employees to identify their own risk factors for illness, and therefore provide motivation for change.

Employee Assistance Programme

An EAP is an assessment, short-term counseling and referral service designed to provide employees assistance in managing life problems.

Work/Life Services
Work/Life plans are designed to create more flexible, responsive work environments, supporting commitments to family and home.

Health Screening
Health risks can be reduced if identified early by screening key factors such as cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and BMI. The use of screening varies significantly around the world, and even the measures used differ from country to country.

Nutrition and Fitness Support
Given the time spent at work, employees make many health choices in the workplace. Employers can help by making healthy options available. This could be as simple as setting up a walking club after work, or providing more nutritious snacks.

Stress Awareness Training
Awareness training can help employees to recognize and manage stress, at home and in the workplace.

Health Coaching
Coaching can support an employee to identify and work on good health habits. Coaching can be focused on general lifestyle changes, or designed to help with a specific challenge such as weight management or stopping smoking.


Considerations in developing an international wellness programme:


Be clear from the start about what the programme is meant to achieve, and how success would be measured.

A successful programme will be advocated by leaders, and will be designed to inspire employees to participate. Ideally, make it interesting and fun for everyone to get involved.

A good wellness programme must be sensitive to local issues and cultural attitudes. It should be designed to meet the specific needs locally. Health risks vary substantially by country, as do the legal issues impacting what employers can do.

Many specific local factors need to be considered before rolling out an appropriate plan, and it may make sense to outsource to an organisation with experience on-the-ground in the countries concerned.

Develop a comprehensive communication plan, taking care to account for language ability and cultural differences. Ideally, make it a special promotion and create a ‘brand’ that your employees will notice.

Make the most of technology available to reach your employees. Some providers offer an online analysis tools to generate specific information on the key health issues affecting your workforce.

Set up measures to evaluate if the project has been a success. Review regularly, and amend as necessary, keeping the wellness programme itself alive and healthy.


IBN is a network of independent employee benefit consultants in over 70 countries around the world, providing member firms and their clients with access to international employee benefits expertise.