Workplace Wellness, Is it Worth it?

You can scarcely turn on the radio, television or computer without seeing something about wellness the cost of healthcare. Given the current climate of change in this department many businesses are looking for ways to cut their healthcare costs. To do this, businesses are looking to incentive companies to help create and institute workplace wellness programs. Though wellness programs in the workplace were previously thought to be a nice perk, new reports and evidence are showing that the tides are turning. So, is it really worth it?  The short answer is yes, but some of the findings as to why it’s worth it may come as a surprise.

So what is Workplace Wellness?  According to the Harvard Business Review it is defined as “an organized, employer-sponsored program that is designed to support employees (and, sometimes their families) as they adopt and sustain behaviors that reduce health risks, improve quality of life, enhance personal effectiveness, and benefit the organization’s bottom lines”.

Companies such as that packaged good industry giant Johnson & Johnson, have been paving the way for decades in the work place wellness arena. Since 1995, they have cited that the number of Johnson & Johnson employees who smoke has dropped by two-thirds. Along with the smoking decline, they have also shown declines in those employees who have high blood pressure and are generally physically inactive. But, why does that matter to a business?  It’s simple math, really. Healthier employees get sick less and file less claims so they are saving the company money. From Johnson & Johnson’s point of view they estimate that their wellness programs have managed to save them over $250 million on health care cost over the past decade. That’s real money.

But the benefits don’t just stop with saving companies money in the healthcare realm. Having an effective wellness program in the workplace lowers your voluntary turnover rate of employees. That’s right; employees are likely to stick with your company if you are investing in their overall wellness. In fact, organizations of all sizes have seen this same result. But there is a catch. Passes to local gyms and nutritional information in the break room aren’t enough to call a wellness program effective and successful. The Harvard Business Review (HBR) conducted a study on ten differing organizations in multiple industries and of multiple sizes. Organizations were asked to provide information about what works and what doesn’t. From that information HBR pulled together what they call “The Six Pillars of an Effective Workplace Wellness Programs,” which can be seen below.

“The Six Pillars of an Effective Workplace Wellness Program”

  1. Multilevel Leadership – A successful program requires a top down approach. Employees must see all levels of management eager to participate and consistently active in the program.
  2. Alignment – A wellness program should not just be an initiative, but rather a strategic imperative that is ingrained in the company culture.
  3. Scope, Relevance and Quality – Wellness programs must be engaging and broad. Anything short of excellence will likely result in employees not participating.
  4. Accessibility – The focus should be on highlighting the no-cost/low-cost options. The more convenient these options for wellness are the more participation you will see.
  5. Partnerships – No man can do it alone. Establishing partnerships with internal and external partners including suppliers can provide a wellness program with the needed components for success!
  6. Communications – Workplace wellness is a message not just a mission. Consider creativity and diversity as good building blocks of an effective program.

Beyond the expected outcomes of workplace wellness programs, such as lower health insurance premiums, wellness incentive programs produce even greater returns with reductions in absenteeism and greater motivation. Healthy employees are happy employees, making your company better.

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