I’ve worked in the insurance business for over 25 years, and one of the best developments during my time in the business has been wellness programs connected to corporate health insurance programs. For me, as a writer and speaker on topics along the wellness spectrum, the marriage of my vocation and my avocation has been a wonderful thing.

The connection has deepened over the past two years as my company’s own corporate wellness program has been expanded from my New York City area office, to all of our U.S. offices.

Because companies are charged with making a profit, one of the challenges with corporate wellness programs is getting companies to buy into the idea that spending money on their employees’ wellness will achieve an ROI (return on investment). If companies saw wellness programs as an investment, as opposed to a cost, more companies would be willing to dive in.

The problem is there is no way to prove the results of wellness programs. For example, if a company’s employees’ healthcare costs go down after a wellness program is rolled out, to what extent was the wellness program a factor? And if the company’s healthcare costs rise during that time (as could easily happen), would those costs have risen more if they hadn’t had a wellness program?

Because those questions are impossible to answer, companies who decide to roll out a wellness program need to do so for other reasons—primarily because they know it’s a good things for their employees whether or not the company can ever measure the ROI. In addition to the good feeling that comes from helping other people (in this case, one’s employees), healthy employees are likely to be happier and more productive employees.

Helping employees to eat better, sleep better, move more, deal with stress better, and know their numbers (so they can address health problems that exist) are all going to yield improved health.

One of the things we began last year in our own wellness program was a series of wellness challenges. The first one I participated in during 2015 involved joining teams and measuring steps, minutes of exercise, and/or weight loss. I was able to link my Fitbit to the wellness challenge Web site, so my steps were automatically tracked. (We are in the midst of that same challenge right now, again, for 2016.)

One of my colleagues who helped administer our wellness program had this to say: “The challenge has really gotten employees motivated…including me. The default goal for the “steps walked” category is 8k steps/day and I’m finding I’m pushing myself to go for a walk at lunch or after work so I won’t let my team down! There’s one employee who averages over 20,000 steps a day and it’s pushing me to do better!! It has definitely become a great source of friendly competition. I also love that people upload their pictures and goals so I can put a face to the names of the employees I’ve been working with across the company.”

In addition to motivational messages I received periodically from the captain of our team, the insurance company sent out weekly messages during the challenge. Here was one I particularly liked:

While it can be hard to completely change your diet all at once, some small, incremental changes can make a world of difference. This week, start by eliminating sugary drinks during the work week. Each bottle of soda can add 250 calories to your day, and studies show that even diet sodas have adverse effects on weight loss. Instead, stick to unsweetened iced tea, seltzer, or water; this way, you’ll consume fewer calories and be better hydrated for your exercise. Bring in healthy drink substitutes for the workplace fridge and share with your teammates.

I like the message because I feel strongly about the evil of sugary drinks, the idea of helping others, and the process of breaking down your goals into small pieces in order to make changes that stick.

Have you been part of a wellness challenge? What have your experiences been? Please join the conversation with your comments…

Best regards,