For Dana Lee, losing weight seemed to be that distant resolution that resurfaced each New Year, and just as quickly passed her by. After being turned on to her corporate wellness program offered by her employer, she decided it was time reach out for help. Now, 35 pounds lighter, Dana is eager to share her excitement.
“This weekend I was able to buy clothes in the normal sizes for the first time in many, many years without going downstairs to the plus sizes, ” proclaims Dana, employee of the Diocese of Stockton, “I had a silly smile on my face the whole time.”
Dana’s story is not only inspiring, but important in understanding the growth of corporate wellness programs nationwide. In fact, one of the leading employee assistance program and wellness providers, ACI Specialty Benefits of San Diego, experienced an increase of over 150% in wellness coaching calls in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2011 compared to the amount of calls received in the third and fourth quarters combined for 2010. This growth in popularity can be attributed mainly to two factors: rising health care costs and word-of-mouth grassroots testimonials. For the former, it is estimated that corporate health care costs will rise by 9% this year, further tightening the squeeze on employers and employees alike, and shifting the health care focus for many human resource professionals to a more proactive and preventative approach. For the latter the explanation is simple—successful practice and results lead to enthusiastic testimonials, outside inquiries, and growth in popularity.
What is Wellness Coaching?
Wellness coaching is a personalized service tailored to an individual’s specific health history, current situation, and future goals. This flexibility makes the service an excellent option for people of all ages and fitness levels. Furthermore, leading employee assistance program (EAP) providers like ACI Specialty Benefits are innovating the way clients are able to access wellness coaching by making their coaching services available not only by phone and email, but also through text, on-site coaching seminars, and even video conferencing through Skype.
The coaching begins as soon as an employee makes first contact with a coach. The coach begins by asking questions to familiarize himself with the employee and their health history, and then takes them through an assessment to identify their current health risks and factors. From this information, the coach is able to assess the employee’s current health situation, exercise habits, and diet to identify the habits that aren’t working and replace them with those that will. The coach then helps the employee come up with concrete goals and benchmarks to track progress, and provides weekly active coaching as a resource for motivation, encouragement and any questions or concerns the employee may have.
“One of the main reasons clients use our wellness coaching services is the accountability factor,” explains Nicole Quartuccio, Director of ACI Specialty Benefits Applecore Wellness Program, “It’s no secret that everyone wants to live a healthier lifestyle, but many of us need a little push and direction to hit the ground running—and keep running.”
While many inquiries for wellness coaching are related to diet and exercise, it is important to point out that those services are only the tip of the iceberg relative to all the support wellness coaching provides. Wellness coaches also offer expert advice and resources for those looking for help with stress management, family health, and even smoking cessation.
The Bigger Picture
The success wellness coaching is having for many individuals is heart-warming and often times inspiring, however it is important to understand the greater context as to what this kind of success actually means—how does the growing popularity of wellness coaching fit into a comprehensive corporate wellness program, and how does it help a company reach its wellness goals, reduce costs, and ultimately build a healthier workforce?
When implementing a successful wellness program, coaching is only one piece of the puzzle. Comprehensive wellness programs like those offered by ACI Specialty Benefits feature a multitude of informative publications, 24-hour access to topic-specific and instructional webinars, helpful on-site wellness events, and even on-site healthy cooking demonstrations, all of which are available to every employee and their families. The availability of such a plethora of support and resources sets the foundation for success for any employee to make a healthy change, but as many businesses know, it only works if you work it.
National averages suggest employee utilization and engagement in wellness programs hovers anywhere between 12-15%. To address this issue many benefits and wellness providers are turning to small incentives to increase engagement, and the results speak for themselves. By incentivizing physical activity and healthy eating through a variety of events, the wellness team at ACI Specialty Benefits was able to increase employee participation for a hotel client in northern California to twice the national average, reducing medical claims cost by just under 50% in the fourth quarter of 2010 alone—and this is no localized phenomenon. Coors Brewing Company, one of the largest beverage corporations in the United States, reported that their wellness statistics indicate a savings of $5.50 per dollar spent on wellness, and even more surprising, an 18% drop in employee absenteeism. Not only are corporations saving money by implementing comprehensive wellness programs, but they are actually adding to corporate productivity by having happy, healthy bodies in the office more days out of the year.
The availability of informative publications, resources, and on-site events put on by wellness providers are great ways to get employees involved in their corporate wellness programs, but to achieve maximum results and engagement, some of the promotional responsibility must also fall on the corporation itself. When conducting meetings, trainings and orientations, it is crucial for employers to highlight the wellness resources available to them and clearly explain exactly what it is that they offer. Too often are employees unaware of the wellness benefits available to them through their corporate programs, and often times it is only a small recommendation or word of encouragement that makes the biggest difference in an employee’s life.
About ACI Specialty Benefits
ACI Specialty Benefits is a leading global provider of employee assistance programs, student assistance, wellness, work/life, and concierge services. ACI Specialty Benefits consistently ranks in the nation’s Top Ten EAPs by Business Insurance Magazine. Founded in 1983, ACI remains a privately-owned specialty benefits corporation headquartered in San Diego. For more information, visit www.acispecialtybenefits.com or email us at [email protected].
Media Relations Specialist
ACI Specialty Benefits