While large corporations have been adopting workplace wellness programs for decades, smaller and mid-sized organizations often hesitate to implement such programs due to concerns that their benefits will not be sufficient to justify their costs. However, workplace wellness programs—which offer a wide variety of services designed to help employees achieve better health—are linked to several results that may significantly boost an organization’s bottom line.
Studies indicate that properly executed workplace wellness programs may yield the following benefits for employers:
- Lower healthcare costs. Prevention is key when it comes to personal health—and the costs that organizations incur in providing healthcare for their employees. By encouraging employees to be proactive about maintaining and improving their health, workplace wellness programs help reduce the need for the costly medical care associated with serious illnesses. According to a survey conducted by the RAND Corporation, wellness programs lowered an organization’s average health care costs by approximately $30 per member per month.
- A more engaged and productive workforce. By supporting employees on their paths to greater physical and mental health, workplace wellness programs help them feel their best—which leads to improved focus, greater efficiency, and ultimately, better results at work.
- Fewer losses due to absenteeism. Employee absenteeism is a common problem that can wreak significant damage on an organization’s bottom line. As employees become healthier by participating in workplace wellness programs, their need to take sick days will decrease—resulting in a lower rate of absenteeism. In fact, one study (https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0626) found that for every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs, employers’ average costs due to absenteeism fell by $2.73.
- Advantages of employee recruitment and retention. When people know that their employers care about their well-being, they are more likely to feel engaged with the organization and less likely to leave their jobs. The research reflects this idea: studies indicate that the average turnover rate for organizations without wellness programs is fifteen percent, compared to only nine percent for those that have adopted programs. In addition, being able to boast a wellness program as a benefit helps with attracting talent.
How to Create an Effective Workplace Wellness Program
Despite the many potential benefits of workplace wellness programs, some organizations struggle to successfully implement a program that achieves a positive return on investment. One of the most common hurdles is low employee participation. While the services typically provided under workplace wellness programs vary greatly—ranging from discounted gym memberships and smoking cessation support to onsite biometric screenings that identify health risks—here are some guidelines that all organizations should follow in order to build a profitable wellness program:
- Develop a clear plan for the program. In order for a workplace wellness program to effectively boost your organization’s success,it is crucial to start with a thorough understanding of your goals. Is it most important for your organization to lower healthcare costs? Improve employee satisfaction? Attract and retain talent? Identifying these goals will enable you to gauge whether the program is succeeding once it is underway. In addition, survey the workforce to determine whether employees are interested in participating in a workplace wellness program and if so, what they seek to achieve. For example, some employees may prioritize weight loss, while others may be focused on reducing stress or managing a health condition. By setting a realistic budget and taking into consideration employees’ goals and those of your organization, you will be able to develop a wellness program that improves the health and satisfaction of your workforce—as well as your bottom line.
- Ensure that the program takes a comprehensive approach to health and well-being. Successful workplace wellness programs address the various aspects that influence an employee’s overall sense of health. While most programs offer features designed to promote exercise and weight management, consider providing a broader range of services, such as mental health support, disease management assistance for individuals with chronic conditions, and classes on stress management techniques like yoga and meditation. Facilitate connections with experts in these areas who can provide employees with one-on-one coaching and guidance.
- Create a company culture that truly supports employees on their journeys to better health. As you encourage employees to participate in your workplace wellness program, remember that actions speak louder than words—if long, grueling workdays are the norm at your organization, employees will likely be deterred from taking time out of their hectic schedules to participate in the program. Instead, allow them the flexibility to participate when and where they want, and try to make it as convenient as possible. For example, have an onsite gym (even if it is small) at your office that employees can use at any point during the workday, or encourage employees to take breaks to walk around the block. Another key component of a wellness-centered company culture is the participation of managers and executives, who serve as examples for the entire workforce.
- Review applicable laws to ensure that the program is conducted properly. Federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of health or genetic status. Standards under these laws were recently revised in order to encourage the use of workplace wellness programs while also protecting employees. The new standards require programs to be reasonably designed to promote health, rather than simply to provide employers with information that will help them estimate future healthcare costs or to shift costs onto employees in poorer health. Additionally, they mandate that organizations keep employees’ medical information confidential, except on a need-to-know basis, and stored separately from other employment records. These standards also prohibit organizations from taking adverse action against employees who decline to participate in wellness programs. In designing and administering your workplace wellness program, it is crucial to consult with an HR expert to ensure compliance with relevant state and federal laws.
- Think outside the box. Consider creative strategies for promoting health in the workplace—particularly if your budget is limited. For example, make it easier for employees to choose nutritious lunches by providing them with a list of healthy dining options near your office, or organizing a monthly “healthy” lunch potluck in which employees are encouraged to bring their favorite diet-friendly dish. Another fun strategy that is gaining popularity is the walking meeting, in which employees take a walk outside or around the office—instead of merely sitting in a conference room—as they discuss important agenda items. In addition to encouraging exercise, walking meetings are believed to stimulate creativity and reduce stress.
In order to reap the many benefits of workplace wellness programs, organizations must follow certain rules and guidelines to ensure legal compliance and maximize employee participation. One way to create an appealing program that delivers a strong return on investment is to seek professional guidance from HR experts, such as the team at Creative Business Resources. Call us today at (602) 200-8500 or contact us online at https://cbri.com/contact/ to discuss your needs and goals with one of our representatives!
(Sources: http://hrcsuite.com/workplace-wellness-roi/, https://www.kff.org/private-insurance/issue-brief/workplace-wellness-programs-characteristics-and-requirements/, https://www.wellsteps.com/blog/2018/01/09/employee-wellness-program-ideas/