Risk Insider: Monica Manske

3 Keys to a Successful Worksite Wellness Program

By: | September 28, 2018 • 3 min read
Monica Manske is the Sr. Manager of Workers’ Compensation and Employee Safety at Rochester Regional Health. She has spent her entire career in the insurance industry with experience as carrier, employer and is active in workers’ compensation advocacy. She can be reached at [email protected]

Worksite wellness programs have as many shapes and sizes as people.  There is no one size fits all solution, but every organization can incorporate wellness programs to reduce risk.


Overall fitness can increase mental acuity and reduce stress — both of which have been directly linked to safety, but can also have the added benefits of weight loss, reducing risk for diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and more. By addressing the wellness of an individual, we can help decrease absenteeism as well as medical and disability insurance expense. Plus it increases productivity, safety and employee retention.

Sounds great. Simple, right? Sadly, no.

Employers face an ever-increasing challenge engaging our workforce in wellness while trying to strike a work/life balance.

Whether embracing the idea of starting a worksite wellness program or leading a mature program, identifying your foundation is a key component. Having a foundation to build off of allows you to continue to improve your program over time.

As a busy mother of two children active in several sports, there were times when my own wellness took a back burner to life. That is the current reality that parents of school-age children live in, and organizations recognize this and have stepped up.

Whether embracing the idea of starting a worksite wellness program or leading a mature program, identifying your foundation is a key component. Having a foundation to build off of allows you to continue to improve your program over time.

These three considerations can be your springboard to success:

1) Know your audience.

What are the demographics and job types of your employee base? Reviewing your medical and disability insurance utilization will assist in identifying the drivers determining the design of your wellness program. Most importantly, ask your employees. For them to perceive value, the program needs to meet their needs. Consider a focus group or survey.

2) Depth of the wellness program.

As you develop your proposal and review ROI and VOI, consider what your company will offer directly or indirectly. Decide if you will offer biometric screenings, healthy food options, classes, a walking program, nutrition counseling, ergonomic solutions, flu shots or more. Will you develop team competitions or participate in established local events such as a run/walk? The options are endless. Some organizations have their own fitness centers onsite. This is a convenient option for staff accessibility, but may not be a viable option for most employers. Consider a relationship with local gym. Some may have medical insurance or corporate discount programs. These partnerships may offer many benefits that a stand-alone employer-hosted fitness center cannot.

3) Infrastructure to sustain the wellness program.

When you have looked at your organizational needs and the breadth of the program, your final consideration is organizational support. The wellness program could have the best plan ever, but if there is not the human-resource bandwidth to make it happen, it will not likely be successful. The legwork you put into the ROI and VOI will assist you in determining your budget and human resource needs.


As your program develops and evolves it is important to keep an eye on the future. Specifically, how do you incorporate technology into your wellness program? Electronic devices and fitness platforms have taken the original pedometers to a new universe. Even many gyms have their own apps now. Leverage the technology for your benefit.

Developing a worksite wellness program should not be a heavy lift, but it does require planning to set yourself and your employees up for success. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]