Design a Simple Wellness Program


Do you wish your business could encourage healthy habits for your employees? Creating a wellness program might sound like an overwhelming task, but it helps to start small.

Each year, Merchants Bank provides a simple walking program to all employees and we’re sharing our tips to help you start your own.

1. Determine Logistics

There are several pieces you need to have in place before kicking off your walking program. Answer these questions:

  • How long will the program last? Typically, we’ve run our wellness competition for six to eight weeks.
  • What walking goals are realistic? You can set step goals by day or week, depending on how you’d like to run your program. We like to have tiers to encourage employees at every fitness level to have an attainable goal. For example, in our last challenge we had goal options of 8,000; 11,000; 14,000 and 17,000 steps per day, per person.
  • How will results be tracked? It works best if your employees can track their steps and report it to a central place, which for us is the Human Resources department. The HR department then records the data in an Excel spreadsheet for the duration of the program and tallies the total steps to determine program winners.
  • What is my budget? Running a walking program takes staff time, but it also takes dollars. You’ll want to budget for incentives/prizes (ideas below) and determine if requiring a registration fee makes sense to help you offset costs. In our most recent walking program, we had 102 participates and spent about $6 per person on prizes. In addition, we asked participants to pay $5 to register for the program.

2. Make Participating Easy

Once you have the above details in place, you want to make participating as simple as possible for your employees. For example, how can they sign up for the program? At Merchants, we email all staff about the program and provide a Word document that they can fill out and return to our HR department.

You’ll also want to make tracking steps easy and inexpensive. We ask our employees to have a pedometer or step-tracking device or use a step-tracking app and then email their weekly steps to HR. Pedometers are a reimbursable item through our wellness program, so employees who don’t own one can purchase a pedometer for the program and be reimbursed up to a certain dollar amount.

3. Create Incentive

It’s easier to encourage employee participation if you can provide them with an incentive, even if it’s small.

Merchants has always given out prizes for our walking programs, from grand prizes at the end of the competition to smaller weekly prizes. Some examples include gift cards, fitbits or healthy snacks. Plus, each participant also receives a walking program t-shirt, partially covered by our registration fee.

It also helps to have the camaraderie and encouragement of co-workers. Our Human Resources department has found that the walking program is more successful when employees sign up with a partner or team instead of competing as individuals. Typically for group challenges, we have participation from between 25-35% of all employees.

So why is all of this important? Having a wellness program can benefit your business and your employees in many ways, including:

  • Lowering health care costs
  • Build a sense of community and team atmosphere
  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce employee injuries

Ready to get started? For ideas and helpful resources on starting a wellness program for your business, we recommend the following resources.

Please note through these resources you will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.


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Employers, if the answer is “Yes”

The high cost of insurance may be a challenge for many employers. But there may be an answer to these questions:HSAEN

  • Are you combating higher health insurance premiums? Yes
  • Are you considering or are you offering your employees a high deductible health plan (HDHP)? Yes
  • Are you looking for peace of mind about your health care expenses? Yes
  • Do you want it to be as easy as possible? Yes

Then, you’ll want a Health Savings Account (HSA) from Merchants Bank.

The Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) is one business that is offering HSAs, and the results have been good, according to Jolie Severson, Payroll and Benefits Administrator at WAPS. More than 411 of the more than 600 employees at WAPS have HSA accounts.

“I would rate our experience as 10 out of 10,” Severson said. “The staff at Merchants is helpful with setting up our employees’ accounts online, allowing personal funds to be directly deposited. All questions and special circumstances are answered with efficiency and satisfaction.”

Severson said there are a number of other benefits for employees.

“It’s not a use it or lose it account, so all the funds in the account stays with the employee for years to come. There are employees who are building up this account for retirement with tax-free dollars,” Severson said. “Employees have become better health care consumers as they manage their medical needs.”

Plus, the account is portable if the employee were to leave and can be transferred to a spouse upon death.

If you want to learn more, talk with your insurance agent and then talk to us at Merchants Bank. We’d be happy to come on-site to help educate your employees.