Corporate wellness is not a new term but it certainly has become more popular in the last decade. Companies first started making entry ways into the corporate wellness arena in the 70’s in an effort to control costs and to increase productivity. In the past, larger corporations have lead the wellness movement but nowadays most businesses, large or small, are getting into the wellness game. The rising cost of healthcare and the obesity epidemic are propelling companies towards wellness.
Most would agree that when workers feel well, they are more productive and are better at their jobs. The primary goal of any wellness program is to help improve the health and wellbeing of its participants. The demands of the work world can take a toll on employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week, according to data.un.org. Corporate wellness programming is an effort to meet people where they are, on the job, to improve their mental and physical health.
Companies who have not already started a wellness program are being driven to do so due to the astronomical increases in the cost of health care. A 2011 Gallup poll estimated that unhealthy workers cost businesses $153 billion a year in lost productivity. Some of the specific direct costs that employers face include: depression, which, cost employers more than $35 billion a year in reduced performance, on the job pain cost employers nearly $47 billion a year in lost productivity, employees with chronic conditions cost four times more than healthy employees, and preseentism (employees who come to work sick and are, therefore, less productive) is estimated to cost employers some $180 billion per year, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A well designed wellness program will help employers get a handle on health care costs by addressing the specific health needs of its employee base. Most programs start with education. Simply getting helpful information out to workers regarding topics like nutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, insomnia and such can be effective. More seasoned programs may offer perks like gym memberships, health fairs, free health screenings, on-site fitness classes, walking/running clubs and more. Many employers are incentivizing to encourage employee participation. Some will offer cash incentives and prizes while others may offer discounts on healthcare premiums to employees who participate to the fullest. More progressive work environments often encourage activities like walking meetings, board room yoga and napping rooms.
Participating in a company sponsored wellness program is a win-win situation. All employees benefit physically and emotionally from working in an environment that promotes a culture of wellbeing. Moreover, the employee receives free tools and resources to improve their health and the health of their families. Both the employer and the employee will see a cost savings. For example, an obese employee who opts into the company’s wellness program can lose weight, reduce or eliminate the need for costly prescriptions to treat illnesses associated with obesity (i.e. diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.), receive a reduced insurance premium and perhaps a cash incentive from the employer. Finally, employers reap the benefits of lower healthcare costs and a happier, more productive workforce.
Kaye Kennedy works for MBS Wellness, which specializes in creating and implementing employee wellness programs by providing cutting-edge, hands on consulting to assist companies in achieving the maximum results from a wellness program. MBS Wellness has consulted and/or implemented successful programs for companies like The Boston Store, Johnson Controls, Jamba Juice, the Oakland Athletics Baseball Company and others. To learn more about starting a Wellness program for your employees or enhancing an existing one, visit www.MBSWellness-SF.com or call +1.888.957.9940.