So if Wellness Programs don’t really reduce health care costs or impact ROI, then why should companies provide them? I will tell you why. First and foremost would be to improve employee recruitment and retention. Wellness, as part of the benefits package can be a factor when candidates are deciding to accept a job offer, or not. A Virgin HealthMiles/Workforce survey did conclude that 87% of employees said they consider health and wellness offerings when choosing an employer. There is a high level of employee interest in a company’s wellness program according to the latest Principal Financial Well-Being Index, “they found most workers are interested in wellness programs that improve their physical fitness, with 27 percent saying they would like in-office fitness facilities, 23 percent citing fitness center discounts and 19 percent expressing interest in weight management programs” (Business Wire). The index, which surveys American workers at growing businesses with 10-1,000 employees, is released by Principal Financial Group, a benefits provider. These findings focusing on wellness attitudes and behaviors among American workers were taken from the fourth quarter 2009 Index.
Helping employees manage their lifestyle risks and chronic health conditions can earn trust and commitment from employees that will positively impact long-term results. The people that make up your organization are a very important asset and by providing them with ways to incorporate healthy choices and manage stress the company is showing them that they are valued and that their health and happiness is important. Wellness programs offer an intrinsic benefit to employees that will build employee morale and could offer ways for people to engage and communicate with each other, as well as, feeling valued and appreciated. Of course the foundation of a company wellness program is usually one that helps to identify elevated health risks such as, elevated blood glucose, high blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure and also offers ways to lower these risks and avoid unhealthy behaviors. Common features are:
• One-on-one coaching
• Biometric screening
• BMI measurements
• Health risk questionnaires
• Tobacco cessation programs
Organizational wellness could also be much more than that. Establishing policies and aligning that with company culture can make it easy for employees to enhance their own sense of well-being. A successful workplace wellness program starts with company leaders. A supportive management team that takes part in the company’s fitness program can demonstrate the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle and can promote those health benefits by sharing their story and being involved in the program. Management can lead by example and be an excellent role model for the program. “Workplace policies that encourage healthy lifestyles will offer a supportive environment that provides opportunities to practice and reinforce healthy behaviors, a safe working environment free of workplace hazards, and a strong employee leadership network to manage the program. Creating and implementing these types of policies and environmental supports in the organization requires leadership from senior managers and strong cross-functional collaboration outside of the traditional structures for workplace health, safety, and wellness” ( Model Wellness Guide, Massachusetts Department of Public).
Not every employee is going to partake in the wellness program, and many of them are the ones that need it the most, but by offering them tools and reinforcing the company’s support of health-minded activities, it can inspire participation. An increased emphasis on health and wellness is quickly becoming standard practice in the business world and it is certainly smart to implement proactive measures that encourage healthier habits since our health is highly affected by our diet and activity level. Americans generally enjoy a long life expectancy and most people are staying in the workforce longer, therefore quality of life becomes a big consideration. Learning the skill to combat an unhealthy lifestyle that creates disease and a dependence on prescription drugs is an invaluable benefit that could make the difference in having a healthy, happy and productive team.