Wellness programs can use web-based tools to help organize and administer a wellness program. These web-based computer systems are called wellness portals.

employee health solutions online with WellSteps

Published research studies suggest that effective wellness programs are instrumental in helping employees adopt and sustain healthy habits. Consequently, a robust employee wellness program should serve as a catalyst for behavioral change, and the establishment of good lifestyle habits.

Even the Best Wellness Portal is NOT a Corporate Wellness Program

However, it’s important to distinguish between a wellness portal and a comprehensive wellness program. Some employers mistakenly believe that merely setting up a wellness website will suffice to improve employee health and reduce healthcare costs. Some employers mistakenly believe that just having a wellness website will automatically improve employee health and cut healthcare costs. But it’s not that simple.

A wellness website is not a wellness program. It’s a computer software program that can be used to help deliver wellness programming and help manage the process. Despite all of the features and benefits that come from the computer coding and programming, these computer systems are just tools to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle is what we do when we’re not web connected.

Living a healthy lifestyle is what we do when we’re not web connected.

Think about somebody you know that lives a healthy lifestyle. This person most likely:

  • exercises every day
  • doesn’t use tobacco
  • eats a healthy diet
  • manages their stress and weight
  • maintains some level of work/life balance

When this healthy person is shopping for healthy foods, making healthy selections at a restaurant, or exercising, they are not online at a wellness portal. They are out in the real world with friends and family making healthy lifestyle choices throughout the day.

The wellness portal might help point them in the right direction but act of living a healthy lifestyle is what every wellness program is trying to produce and this happens offline. An effective employee wellness program should be a healthy living support tool that helps individuals adopt and maintain healthy behaviors and it should use the best behavior change science to accomplish four objectives:

wellSteps web-based solutions
  1. Educate and create awareness
  2. Motivate
  3. Teach health promoting skills and tools
  4. Create healthy culture and encourage social support

These four objectives are the foundation of a successful wellness program that is based on behavior change.  This behavior change model tells us exactly what features the best worksite wellness programs should have if they are to be effective.

The next table shows the 10 features and how each one is part of the behavior change process.

Wellness Portal Feature What it Does
1.  Conduct confidential Personal Health Assessment
2.  Educate (videos, books, webinars, biometric results)
Education and Awareness
3.  Track program participation and activity
4.  Make engagement easy with a mobile app
5.  Track and administer incentives and rewards
6.  Demonstrate how to be healthy
7.  Provide the tools needed to be healthy
8.  Deliver behavior change campaigns and challenges
Skills and Tools
9.  Encourage social support
10. Create a health promoting culture
Healthy Culture, Support from Others

RELATED: Employee Health Programs Worth Investing In

Top 10 Features That Should be Found in Every Wellness Portal

1.  Conduct confidential health assessment

The first step in behavior change is to become educated about the need to change our behaviors. Most wellness programs start off with a personal health assessment and a biometric screening. The results from these assessments create awareness for the aspects of our lives that need to be improved.

The results from these assessments create awareness for the aspects of our lives that need to be improved.

employee health app

Whether done on a computer or a mobile device, wellness portals can make it easy for individuals to report their personal health risks and understand the results from their biometric screening. The education and awareness part of behavior change is the easiest part to do.

Wellness portals assess individual health data, make recommendations, and encourage people to improve. The challenge is to gather the data and provide the education in a simple, easy to understand format. Taking a personal health assessment on a mobile device is about as simple and easy as it can get.

RELATED: The Best Way to Conduct Biometric Testing and Wellness Screening

2.  Educate

There are dozens of ways to educate employees about the need for healthy behaviors. A good wellness program is going to use lots of different resources to help individuals understand the importance of adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

  • video content
  • live presentations
  • webinars
  • books
  • audio files
  • social media
  • individualized feedback

Wellness portals do a very good job of interpreting and reporting personal health information. Here is an example of the personalized feedback from the WellSteps wellness solution.

Wellness portal

For many wellness programs, education and awareness is all they do, but you will see this is only the first step in having an effective wellness program that is focused on behavior change.

3.  Track program participation and activity

Well-designed wellness systems can automatically monitor program participation and individual health behaviors. When we witness progress, it encourages us on to maintain new behaviors. Through displaying participation and activity, a proficient system enables individuals to observe how their engagement evolves over time.

These systems can aid individuals in achieving their personal wellness objectives. They have the capability to collect data from wearable devices like Fitbit, and they can even identify individuals who have viewed behavior change videos or completed behavior change tasks.

Wellness portal

All of this gets aggregated into live reports that allow individuals and administrators to have a dashboard view of everything going on within their wellness strategy. This is perhaps one of the most useful aspects of a wellness portal.

RELATED: 16 Staff Wellness Activities for Creating a Healthier Workplace in 2024

4.  Make engagement easy with a mobile app

In the past, many wellness program participants relied on paper forms and printed materials to report health risks or engage in wellness activities. Dealing with the logistics of creating, printing, shipping, and collecting these materials was quite burdensome.

Wellness portal

However, nowadays, most of this has been replaced by granting employees access to the internet. Whether it’s through a computer or mobile device, participating has become much easier and more enjoyable than before. Therefore, it’s essential for every corporate wellness program to be accessible on both computers and mobile devices.

A wellness portal needs to have a mobile app that allows every employee to participate in every aspect of their program. At WellSteps, we are seeing more and more employees participating in our wellness programs with the WellSteps app.

In the not too far distant future, most if not all employees will participate with a mobile device. Well-designed and easy-to-use apps make it easy for employees to engage in your wellness program. This helps them stay motivated to have healthier lives.

5. Track and administer incentives and rewards

When we talk about motivation, most of us think about employee incentives. As employees complete different aspects of the wellness program they can earn points towards different rewards. Regardless of the incentive strategy you use, your wellness system needs to track progress towards receiving your wellness rewards.

The WellSteps Rewards Solution automates the entire process of validating, tracking, and fulfilling wellness program incentives. Historically, administering a wellness incentive plan has been labor-intensive for staff and challenging for employees.

The easier it is for employees to participate the more they will enjoy it and the more likely they are to acquire new, healthy behaviors.

Your employee wellness program needs to greatly simplify the tracking and administration of wellness rewards. A good wellness system will do this automatically and make it extremely easy for employees to report and track their progress. The easier it is for employees to participate the more they will enjoy it and the more likely they are to acquire new, healthy behaviors.

online wellness programs

RELATED: WellSteps Rewards: Benefits & Features

6.  Demonstrate how to be healthy

In my experience, these next three features are the most difficult to produce and the most effective if done right. Most people who have elevated health risks already know that their health is not as good as it should be.

What they really need is a step-by-step approach to improving their lives. They need to know how to change their habits to make it easier to be healthy. They need to be taught how to shop for healthy foods, how to avoid unhealthy fast foods, how to be physically active even though they might have a busy schedule, and how to avoid situations where they may be tempted to use tobacco.

It is one thing to know that exercise is good for you. It is another thing to decide what type of activity to do and how to do it. The how to part of behavior change is crucial. A wellness portal can become teaching tools to give people the skills and know-how to transform their lives.

This can be done with video, but it would be even better if the system were used to communicate a live meeting where real humans can communicate with other real humans to learn how to create healthy lifestyle habits. In this sense the wellness solution can also become a communication tool.

RELATED: How the Best Worksite Wellness Programs Change Behavior

7.  Provide the tools needed to be healthy

Sometimes demonstrations on how to be healthy are not enough. Employees may need resources or tools to help them be healthy, such as:

  • sporting equipment
  • gym passes
  • cooking equipment
  • vegetable cutting boards
  • walking shoes
  • recipe books
  • day planners

Without the right tools it is unlikely that a new behavior will be acquired. For example, the Stop and Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide was recently updated inside the WellSteps app and you can use it to eat fast food and still eat healthy.

It color codes over 25,000 fast foods from 143 different restaurants.  Avoid the red foods.  Enjoy the green ones and your health will improve. Over 1 million people are using it, but it is just a tool. People need tools to be healthy and wellness programs should be used to share these tools.

RELATED: WellSteps Apps: Stop & Go Fast Food and Grocery Guides

8.  Deliver behavior change campaigns and challenges through a Wellness Portal

The WellSteps behavior change campaigns and challenges are carefully designed behavior change programs that use each of the four major steps of behavior change. Each campaign and challenge is designed to help employees make new lifestyle habits.

Each campaign uses marketing and communication materials, incentives, campaign materials, video, webinars, and onsite support to help employees be healthy.  Most, but not all of this can be delivered using a wellness portal. The video is from the Balance It All campaign.

A nice example of how we use campaign videos to help people along is provided in the Food Makeover campaign. Employees take several weeks to learn which of the foods currently in their home are healthy and which ones are not.

During the campaign they will take an inventory of the foods in their home. They also learn shopping secrets that help them know what to buy and how to save money doing it. Finally, they are asked to choose and prepare one meal from our library of healthy, simple recipes. This behavior change campaign helps employees eat healthier meals at home.  

RELATED: WellSteps Behavior Change Campaigns

9.  Encourage social support

Unless you live on a deserted island, your health behaviors are influenced by friends and family. A good employee wellness program will communicate and invite your friends and family to participate with you. Social support is key to successful long-term behavior change.

Without it is almost impossible to change our diets, stop smoking, or create a daily habit of exercise. Humans are very social creatures and the support we get from others goes a long way to helping us be healthy. A good wellness computer system also has a strong social media component were successes can be shared with others.

A good wellness computer system also has a strong social media component were successes can be shared with others.

Personal stories and challenges can provide motivation for others to change behaviors. Whether it integrates with a social media platform or provides a link to an electronic newsletter every employee wellness program needs to include effective ways to harness social support.

10. Create a health promoting culture

Adopting healthy behaviors is actually fairly easy. The challenge is to maintain these healthy behaviors for the rest of your life. Worksites that can create health-promoting environments and a culture that supports healthy living will experience a variety of positive wellness outcomes.  

The WellSteps Guides use our wellness solution to help our clients take a good look at their worksite culture using our free tool called the Checklist to Change. Periodically, the wellness committee and worksite leadership pick one thing to change within their environment.

wellness culture

After several years of small, consistent, culture changes, the entire organization begins to look and feel like a place where people want to work and be healthy. This checklist to change is delivered through the wellness portal and it helps organizations create a culture of health.

RELATED: WellSteps Checklist to Change

Next Steps For Using the WellSteps Wellness Portal

Large studies have shown that 70 to 91% of all chronic diseases are lifestyle related. That means that most of our poor health and the majority of our healthcare costs come from diseases that are caused by poor health behaviors.

Wellness programs that use an effective wellness portal will improve employee health behaviors, lower health risks, and reduce employee healthcare costs. The WellSteps team uses each of these features as part of our wellness solutions. As the winner of the 2016 Koop award, WellSteps has been able to demonstrate that a good wellness portal can make a good wellness program great.

We invite you to schedule a Free Demo with our team and explore more of the portal and online resources we’ve discussed today that will take your team’s wellness to the next level.

FAQs About a Wellness Portal

What is a Wellness Portal?

Wellness Portals are simply Wellness Websites. They employ computer software programs that can be used to help deliver wellness programming and help manage the process.

What is the Best Wellness App?

A variety of Wellness apps exist on the market and not all are created equal. Exploring a number of options may be your best bet to know what will work best for you.

About The Author

Dr. Steve Aldana

Dr. Aldana is the CEO of Wellsteps, a worksite wellness solution that leads the nation in wellness program deployment and engagement. Dr. Aldana authored over 75 scientific papers and 7 books on health risk management, healthy living, and health promotion programs. He has given over 350 keynote speeches across the U.S. on the ability of good nutrition and regular exercise to prevent, arrest, and reverse many chronic diseases.