The Three Pillars of Wellness

January 5, 2016

By Greg Vachon, MD, MPH

Wellness can mean a lot of things, that’s for sure. But let’s think in terms of you as an employer. You want wellness to support the cultural, psychological, medical, and safety aspects of your employees’ lives. Wellness impacts their productivity and their costs from other line items such as medical claims, disability claims, absenteeism and the cost of recruiting and training.

Wellness is supported by employers through three pillars of intervention: structural, relational, and economic. It is only through best use of all three pillars that you as an employer will efficiently and effectively support wellness in your employed population, and in their families.

Structural wellness interventions change the environment. This could be opening a gym at the worksite or making the grounds inviting for walks. Offering healthy choices at the cafeteria is another structural intervention. As is banning smoking on worksite property, which improves the physical environment.

Relational interventions are person-to-person. This includes, for example, relationships between an employee and a coach or a nurse or a personal physician. It also includes the relationships among individual employees: in other words, your workplace culture. Relational interventions are powerful, but difficult to engineer. 

Economics is the third pillar. This pillar is often ignored or is built in ways that actually undermine important reasons for seeking wellness, including productivity. Yet without using economics effectively, an employer is settling for a less-well population and getting the results less efficiently. To use this pillar properly an employer must use methods that are fair and use the well-known levers of behavioral economics. This could be as simple as subsidies for apples in vending machines. But actual employee wellness incentives can turbo-charge your impact -- or cause you to stumble -- so getting these right is critical. PUSH for Wellness has taken the risk out of wellness incentives by honing the most efficient, effective and fair wellness incentive program. 

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