Wellness programs are intended to promote better health practices among employees. Wellness programs offer users premium discounts, gym memberships, and other rewards to…. well, be healthier. These programs often try and implement practices to help people stop smoking, manage their diabetes, lose weight, or even to go see a doctor. Sometimes it’s the insurance plans that offer incentives to users to lead healthier lives but increasingly they are being offered by employers.
Initially wellness programs by employers were implemented to test if their were an ROI as a result of reduced absence, medical costs, and health risks for employees. However, companies that have implemented wellness programs have found positive qualitative results in employee engagement, morale and even productivity.
The APA Center for Organizational Excellence 2014 Work and Wellbeing Survey that included millennials, Gen-Xers and boomers found that from 2011 to 2014 the number of employers offering wellness programs increased (36% – 40%) and participation (25% – 32%) increased. It also found that employees who feel valued are more likely to be satisfied with the health and wellness practices offered by their employers.
The temptation for many decision makers is to look at the immediately measurable high-level medical cost but often one forgets to think long-term. And long-term results in terms of turnover and productivity seem to lean towards adding or adding to wellness programs. LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the Washington-based National Business Group on Health found that companies that have more than one location that have employees engaged in wellness programs tend to have less worker compensation costs, she also found that all centers have found that the ones with the best wellness programs have the best results.
Measurable results like this are going to please investors for large companies but for the small or growing business often a culture of positivity and employee happiness is tantamount while money is tight. However, considering these studies you might rethink your cost benefit analysis if you’re not offering a wellness program now.
The evidence calls for a balanced approach including employee engagement and health and wellness programs.