The Value of Employee Wellness Programs
The link between healthy employees and a healthy bottom line
Benjamin Franklin may have pronounced “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” hundreds of years ago, but it’s no less true today. The proliferation of corporate wellness programs attests to recognition of this wisdom. Research shows that almost 90% of large companies and about 50% of smaller companies — even those with as few as three employees — now offer some type of wellness program.1
As more employees are being encouraged to take a more active role in their health — and their healthcare spending choices — company-sponsored wellness programs can play an increasingly important role in driving down the cost of healthcare benefits. In fact, nearly three out of four employers (72%) that offer wellness programs say they are effective at reducing medical costs.2
More than dollars and cents: Common sense
Since Americans spend more than a third of their waking hours at work,3 the workplace has become the obvious staging ground to promote behavioral change — and wellness programs may reduce company healthcare costs by 20-50% over time.4
A study published by the Council of State Governments’ Healthy States Initiative indicates that a typical employer spends about $18,000 a year per employee for costs related to health care and lost productivity due to illness. 5
A wellness program doesn’t have to be overly complicated to knock that cost down –- and some companies are seeing a $3 to $6 return on every dollar invested in wellness, as well as a 25% drop in absenteeism, health care premiums, and disability/workplace compensation costs, according to the Council of State Governments.
Should you design your own employee wellness program?
Choices abound for launching a wellness initiative for your company. Many insurance carriers offer some type of program, as do companies specializing in administering wellness programs.
You can also design a program of your own. If you choose the do-it-yourself route, the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests including a variety of components that target risky behaviors and are tailored to the needs and interests of your employees.6 Examples of common components include:
- Stress reduction, weight loss or smoking cessation programs
- Health risk screenings and assessments
- Exercise programs and activities
- Nutrition education
- Vaccination clinics
Don’t try to do it all yourself
You don’t have to take time away from running your business to reap the benefits of a wellness program. Consider asking for volunteers or establishing a formal committee, then setting expectations and checking in with them regularly. You can also look at outsourcing to handle the development and administration of a wellness program.
Regardless of which method you choose for launching a wellness program, don’t forget to be a positive role model — let the commitment to wellness start with you.
1 eHow Health, “The History of Worksite Wellness Programs” http://www.ehow.com/about_6868696_history-worksite-wellness-programs.html
2 MetLife’s 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, 2011
3 ACHIEVE Healthy Communities, “Why Worksite Wellness?” 2008
4 Pennsylvania Department of Health, “Overview of Worksite Wellness and Its Value,” July 2008
5 Promoting Workplace Health, Legislator Policy Brief, The Healthy States Initiative, 2008
6 How to Establish and Design a Wellness Program, Society of Human Resources Management, September 2012