Workplace Wellness Programs Actually Work

Sadly, the statistics aren’t good and they aren’t getting any better. Nearly 65 percent of adults do not exercise regularly, half of all adults have high cholesterol, one out of every four has high blood pressure and 30 percent are obese. Time and time again, research shows that even the simplest workplace wellness programs can be mutually beneficial to the company and the employees.

Crushing Health Care Costs Require Action

It’s no secret that the health care costs in the US have been rising exponentially in the last decade. Since 2002, companies in California alone have seen a 153% increase in the cost of employer health insurance plans. In a time of economic downturn, the knee-jerk reaction is to slash extra corporate programs or health care coverage. But cutting or delaying the start of a corporate wellness program might not be that great of an idea. Research has shown that “…companies can save anywhere from $3 to $15 for every $1 spent on health and wellness within 12 to 18 months of implementing a [workplace wellness] program.” Instead of implementing a “fire-sale” throughout your organization, strongly consider keeping or implementing your wellness program. The financial impact could be substantial.

Boost Productivity and Morale

The benefits of a workplace wellness program don’t just impact the bottom line. The adage is true, a healthier employee is a happier employee. Giving employees the tools, education and freedom to live healthier lives allows them to perform at the highest level. And by adding incentives you can boost morale. Comp days, gym membership discounts, flex time, healthy lunch vouchers and a host of other incentives have a greater chance at improving morale than the typical “Hawaiian shirt Friday”. Give-a-ways aren’t the only way to boost morale. The camaraderie and teamwork built around a wellness program can pay countless dividends as well.

It Does Work

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma participated in a four state challenge to collectively lose 20 tons in 2011. To date, employees in all four states have lost nearly 30 tons collectively. A BCBS employee reduced her body fat by 6 percent, dropped her cholesterol and blood sugar by 12 points and was able to stop taking certain medications with better control of her health. Not only do workplace wellness programs work but they have the potential to impact the entire organization.

Get Aggressive

While some leaders might frown on “mandates” when it comes to the issue of personal wellness, but a Tennessee company is doing just that. If their employees don’t participate they lose  $360 a year from their paycheck. Another company offers a $100 a month discount on premiums if employees quit smoking. If they fail a nicotine screening, the forfeit a portion of that discount. There are a variety of health screening tests to determine the health and wellness of employees.

With an uneasy economy and rising health care costs employers should take a long hard look at the value of workplace wellness programs. Structured and incentivized, they can reduce company premiums, boost productivity and morale and be one of the best things you could do for the benefit of your company.

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