Pro vs. Con of Wellness Programs

Although we have blogged about wellness programs before, over the last few weeks I have seen numerous articles and statistics about these programs in the workplace. It seems to be a new trend that HR professionals should start to take note of, or should they? I would like to present both sides of this topic.

SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) has published multiple articles on this topic. In their latest article, according to Helen Darling, the president of The National Business Group on Health “Chronic illnesses account for 75 percent of health care spending, according to the NGBH, and employers are putting a much higher priority on wellness and lifestyle improvement programs than ever before.” In other words, the more health tips and simple practices that an employer can implement the lower health costs the company will have to pay in the end. It is a lot less selfish than it sounds. It truly could be a win-win for both employer and employee. Since 2006, health coaching and advice have gone up dramatically. From 2007 to 2008 the amount of employers implementing wellness programs has increased threefold. Also according to the article, “Initiatives as simple as providing healthy alternatives in workplace vending machines and promoting walks around an organization’s facility can be effective in their own way for changing lifestyle habits” says Dr. Don Bradley from North Carolina.

On the other hand, some say that these programs are so hard to measure with numbers that there is no direct correlation between employees being healthier because of them, and health costs for employers going down. How can a company say that just by changing the food in the vending machines or offering exercise classes that they have prevented someone from getting sick? That person might have become sick anyway. If a company is putting a considerable amount of money into this program, some employers might feel it is not worth their investment in the long run, due to the fact that there are no measurable statistics supporting it.

After all is said and done, your HR department just has to decide if a wellness program is something ones employees could benefit from.  I would put the cost portion aside and think about the affects it could have on morale and productivity, which could make you more money anyway.