Workplace Wellness Programs Pay Off!

Photo via Bo Kage Carlson, Flickr

Workplace wellness not only reduces health care costs, it improves productivity which is why it’s such a hot topic right now, writes Karen Smith in “Why Workplace Wellness is Important” on the Albanie-Colonie Regional Chamber website.

Smith, formerly director of health and wellness services at insurance and benefits provider Rose & Kiernan, Inc., is now director of clinical solutions for USI Insurance Services.

“Worksite health promotion should be viewed as an investment in a business’ most important asset, its employees. Studies show that employees are more likely to be on the job and performing well when they are in optimal health,” she writes.

Smith lists important benefits of implementing a wellness program:

  • Attracts the most talented workers
  • Reduces absenteeism and lost time
  • Improves on-the-job time utilization, decision-making and productivity
  • Strengthens employee morale
  • Reduces in turnover
  • Helps build a healthy workplace culture
  • Improves disease management and prevention, and a healthier workforce in general, both of which contribute to lower health care costs.

Most Health Care Costs are from Preventable Diseases

“Between 70% to 90% of health care spending is caused by preventable, modifiable health risks … Unhealthy lifestyle choices often lead to chronic diseases, costing businesses more than one trillion dollars in lost productivity alone,” Smith writes.

It’s a huge problem, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Workplace Wellness: Dept of Health & Human Services Logostatistics she presents show:

  • 59% of employees do not get adequate exercise
  • 50% or more have high cholesterol
  • 27% have cardiovascular disease
  • 26% are overweight by 20 percent or more
  • 24% have high blood pressure

“As healthcare costs continue to rise, it makes sense that addressing the specific needs of an employee population and maximizing the engagement and participation of workplace wellness programs is critical.”

Through wellness programs, employers can help workers understand the advantages of making positive lifestyle choices and be supported in those choices. The programs can include free flu shots, health fairs, gym memberships, stop-smoking programs, health-risk assessments, cooking classes, CSA memberships – the list is endless and the more creative, the likely the more compliance.

Says Smith, “While some businesses have instituted very comprehensive wellness programs, others have achieved savings or increased productivity with just a few simple activities that promote healthy behaviors. What’s most important is to commit to wellness promotion in the organization.”

Most industry literature and research agrees that the typical return on a wellness program is said to be from $3-$6 for every $1 invested, with savings realized 2-3 years after implementation, she observes.

It Takes Time and Commitment

In a Forbes article, Joshua Love, president of corporate wellness company Kinema Fitness, says companies are taking employee wellness more seriously now. In the article, “Five Reasons Corporate Wellness Is More Important Than Ever,” he writes:

 “Wellness is a complete lifestyle and behavior change and change takes time and commitment.”

He offers employers five insights and suggestions for designing an effective wellness program:

  1. Creating an on-site wellness program is important because the majority of an employee’s time is spent at the workplace.
  2. You can’t expect unhealthy behavior to change overnight, so an employee wellness program needs to provide consistent education and layers of accountability.
  3. Corporate wellness shouldn’t be boring. Creating unique and dynamic programs that consistently evolve over time ensures the best possibility of long-term adoption and success.
  4. Appoint a wellness leader with direct responsibility over the program to stay current with trends.
  5. Consider providing employees with rebates for participating in wellness initiatives.

“Corporate wellness is a complex, long-term play. A successful program takes time and constantly evolves so it can be integrated into the fabric of the company’s culture. It is the culmination of many solutions that work together under one strategy,” Love writes.

Done well, a company can make wellness part of the fabric of the company culture.  It takes support from the top, long-term commitment, and consistent reinforcement, but wellness initiatives do pay off. Stay tuned for our next wellness post, which shares learning from successful workplace wellness initiatives.

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