Both employees and companies can benefit from workplace wellness programs

Employees are becoming more concerned – and informed – about their health, Forbes reports.

A Yoga In America study found that between 2004 and 2008, Americans spent $5.7 billion on yoga equipment, clothing, vacations, media and classes – an increase of 87 percent in just four years. Half of yoga practitioners took up the pursuit as a way to improve their health, according to the study.

In addition to addressing workers’ health concerns, prioritizing corporate wellness programs can have a number of positive effects from a company standpoint.

Exercise and healthy eating habits can improve concentration and employee engagement, and is likely to lead to higher productivity levels in the workplace. This may lead to an increase in morale, which can also be fostered by the knowledge that employee wellbeing matters enough to the company that it is making efforts to improve and encourage healthy behavior among workers.

Unhealthy lifestyles and stress, which can have major impacts on productivity and absenteeism, can result in higher health benefit costs for companies. By taking steps to reduce instances of preventable illness through the implementation of a corporate wellness program, companies are likely to see a significant return on investments.

Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and chief medical officer of Shape Up Rhode Island, believes that social networking and competitiveness are key parts of a successful workplace health and wellness program, according to the Herald News. At a recent Southcoast Worksite Health and Wellness Collaborative conference in Fall River, Massachusetts, Kumar advocated taking a social approach to getting workers more involved.

“Employers spend a lot of money and a lot of effort rolling out interventions for their employees … but the problem is that they can’t get people to actually sign up for them,” Kumar said in a speech at the conference, the newspaper reports. “While financial incentives may have a role in getting employees to participate, they’re only part of the solution, and there’s actually something much more powerful, much more sustainable and much more affordable … and that’s to take the social approach to health and wellness.”

According to Kumar, engaging social forces when designing employee wellness programs can be achieved in a number of ways, including hosting challenges and competitions, encouraging employees to publicize and compare accomplishments such as weight loss achievements.