Workplace Wellness: What It Can Do for You
Workplace wellness affects your company—and its finances—in several ways. Wellness programs hold the potential to lower health care costs, increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and raise employee morale.
Because employees spend a large portion of their waking hours at work, the workplace is an ideal setting to address health and wellness issues, benefiting your employees’ personal lives as well as their professional lives.
There are many different types of wellness programs. The purpose of these programs is to promote healthy lifestyle wellness initiatives and can include smoking cessation programs, on-site gyms, healthy food initiatives, wellness education and much more. While some businesses have instituted very comprehensive health 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 your organization.
What Is Workplace Wellness?
Workplace wellness refers to the educational resources and health programs that a worksite might offer to promote healthy lifestyles for employees and their families.
Examples of wellness initiatives include health education classes, subsidized use of fitness facilities, internal policies that promote healthy behavior, and any other activities, policies or environmental changes that affect the health of employees.
Workplace wellness programs seek to impact risk factors associated with preventable illnesses by promoting healthy lifestyle choices and discouraging behaviors and attitudes that are detrimental to good health. Because lifestyle behaviors are deeply ingrained, making these types of behavioral changes is very difficult and requires discipline and dedication, and it can be difficult to get employees to participate in the program.
Educating employees about the benefits of positive lifestyles and the detriments of unhealthy behavior is an important first step. It will take strong motivational forces to get most of your employees to take action. One way to raise and maintain employee interest in wellness programs is to offer incentives. The best incentive program will be easy to administer and cost-effective, and will move employees to take action and sustain positive lifestyle changes over time.
Workplace wellness programs frequently use rewards or incentives to encourage healthy lifestyle choices and behaviors. This Legislative Brief provides an overview of the different types of workplace wellness programs and the Affordable Care Act’s rules on the incentives or rewards that can be offered under the programs.
As you plan where to focus your wellness efforts, consider that some efforts may have greater impact than others. Your wellness program can include many components, such as:
- Health screening and assessment
- Education through presentations, printed materials and Web resources
- Program activities, including campaigns over a specified time period
- Environmental and policy change
What Employee Wellness Can Do
Wellness programs positively impact productivity and finances in several ways, all leading to a more efficient, cost-effective workforce.
All in all, it’s no surprise that employers are searching for innovative ways to reduce health care costs.
Control coverage costs. Health care costs are a significant portion of a company’s budget, and many employers are taking a close look at those rising expenses, especially with the effects of recent health care law changes. Strategically targeting health-related expenses can significantly benefit an employer’s budget.
Employees with more health risk factors, including being overweight, smoking and having diabetes, cost more to insure and pay more for health care than people with fewer risk factors. A wellness program can help employees with high risk factors make lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life and lower costs, while also helping employees with fewer risk factors remain healthy.
Improve productivity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports research that demonstrates that workplace wellness programs can lead to more efficiency in the workplace because healthier employees are more productive. Even when sick or unhealthy employees show up to work, they’re likely not operating at their true potential.
Improved health—fueled by workplace wellness programs and incentives—can reduce the problem of presenteeism, which is a condition where workers show up but produce inefficient or substandard work due to the adverse effects of their ill health.
Reduce absenteeism. Healthier employees means fewer sick days and less time away from work for doctor visits. For example, the CDC reports that overweight and obese employees miss considerably more days of work than normal-weight employees (a 56 percent increase in missed days for overweight and obese men, and a 15 to 141 percent increase in missed days for women who are overweight and obese, respectively).
Additionally, employees’ healthier behavior may translate into better health care and lifestyle choices for their families, potentially leading to less work missed due to caring for ill family members. Reduced absenteeism can yield significant cost savings and return on your wellness investment.
Trim workers’ compensation and disability expenses. Employees who make healthy changes and lower health risks have a lower chance of workplace injury or illness and disability. In both cases, this can save the employer money, not just on insurance premiums and benefits paid out, but also on the cost of recruiting and training a new worker to temporarily replace an employee who is absent due to ill health.
The CDC’s compilation of research suggests that employers can save as much as 25 percent on claims costs after implementing a successful workplace wellness program.
Boost morale and improve recruiting. Expressing a commitment to your employees’ health can improve employee morale and strengthen retention. A company that cares about its employees' health is often viewed as a better place to work, and wellness programs can also help attract top talent in a competitive market.
Employees can experience many potential benefits after joining a wellness program, including improved well-being, better coping skills for stress, reduced risk for developing or worsening diseases and illnesses, lower health care costs and fewer doctor visits, access to social support through co-workers, and a healthier work environment.
Why Workplace Wellness?
It affects your company’s bottom line in many ways. Namely, workplace wellness can lower health care costs, increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and raise employee morale. Because employees spend many of their waking hours at work, the workplace is an ideal setting to address health and wellness issues.
Wellness programs help control costs. Health care costs are a significant portion of a company’s budget, so strategically targeting this expense can significantly benefit an employer’s bottom line. An investment in your employees' health may lower health care costs or slow the cost increases. Employees with more health risk factors, including being overweight, smoking and having diabetes, cost more to insure and pay more for health care than people with fewer risk factors. A wellness program can help employees with high risk factors make lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life and lower costs, while also helping employees with fewer risk factors remain healthy. Healthier employees are more productive. Research shows that workplaces with wellness programs have employees who are more productive at work.
Healthier employees miss less work. Healthier employees mean fewer sick days, which is another benefit companies generally achieve through wellness programs. Plus, employees’ healthier behavior may translate into better family choices, so employees may also miss less work caring for ill family members. Reduced absenteeism can yield significant cost savings and return on your wellness investment.
Wellness programs can reduce workers’ compensation and disability costs. Employees who make healthy changes and lower health risk factors often have a lower chance of a workplace injury or illness or a disability. In both cases, this can save the employer money, not just on insurance premiums and benefits paid out, but also the replacement cost of recruiting and training a new worker to replace one out of work for health reasons.
Wellness can yield higher morale and improve recruiting. A company that cares about its employees' health is often seen as a better place to work and wellness programs can attract top talent in a competitive market. In addition, expressing a commitment to your employees’ health can improve employee morale and strengthen retention. Employees can experience many potential benefits after joining a wellness program, including:
- Increased well-being, self-image and self-esteem
- Improved coping skills with stress or other health factors
- Reduced risk for developing chronic or life threatening conditions
- Easier access to health improvement programs and convenience can increase motivation to improve health
- Improved overall health
- Lower costs for health care (fewer doctor visits, perhaps lower premiums, less need for expensive care, etc.)
- Access to needed social support, as coworkers strive toward healthier lifestyles as well
- Improved job satisfactions
- Safer and more productive work environment
Employees who experience these positive changes and benefits will often feel more loyalty to the company and grateful for the company’s commitment to their health.
Overall, employees who experience positive changes and benefits from a wellness program will often feel more loyalty to the company and demonstrate increased productivity, leading to a stronger, less expensive workforce.
To learn more about workplace wellness programs and their benefits, to gain access to comprehensive, ready-to-go wellness programs, or to obtain information on how to get started, contact Montgomery & Graham at 503-297-1330 or use the form to schedule a consultation.