Why You Should Care About Workplace Wellness

Healthy Employees Build Healthy Organizations    

A 278 % return on investment may seem too good to be true, but when Pepsico decided to invest in helping their employees manage chronic illnesses they ended up saving $3.78 in healthcare expenses for every dollar they invested.

As healthcare costs rise and the nation’s overall health declines, most American employers are investing in wellness programs in an attempt to reverse this trend in their own organizations and improve their employees’ lives. And the benefits of wellness programs go beyond cost savings. Happy and healthy employees are proven to be more engaged and productive.

By investing in employee wellbeing you have the opportunity to not only better the lives of employees and cut healthcare costs, you also enable your workers to drive better results and serve customers’ needs more efficiently.

 Invest in Healthcare and a Healthy Lifestyle to Save Money

In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

With emergency room visits averaging over two thousand dollars and most surgeries in the five figure range, along with potentially higher premiums for smokers or obese subscribers, the cost of an unhealthy lifestyle adds up quickly both for employees and employers.

By investing in programs, culture, and workplaces that help employees get in shape, be more active, or just reduce stress, companies can help employees prevent or manage conditions that lead to serious illnesses and hospitalization.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that reducing weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol by only 1% can save over $100 per employee annually in healthcare costs, and on top of that, many insurers offer discounts for participating in wellness programs and making healthy lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking alone can save up to 33% on an insurance premium, saving thousands of dollars.

The costs of wellness programs as well as workplace and cultural changes that support a healthy lifestyle are easily justified by the savings, and that’s before considering the other benefits that these programs return.

Healthy and Happy Workers are More Productive

Poor health costs American companies hundreds of billions of dollars per year in lost productivity! Health issues lead to much higher rates of absenteeism and presenteeism, which is on-the-job productivity loss resulting from physical and mental health issues.

The CDC estimates that absenteeism costs employers nearly $226 billion per year, or $1,685 per employee, and the cost of presenteeism is even higher. A study by the Virgin Pulse found that the cost of presenteeism is up to ten times higher than absenteeism. That combined cost is more than most health insurance premiums!

Health is also tied to overall employee engagement. Being in good health is known to increase daily productivity, but a study by Gallup shows that healthy employees are also much more engaged. And this isn’t just a simple cause and effect, but more of a circular relationship. Because work is such a large part of a person’s life, being more engaged and enjoying time spent at work reduces stress and leads to better overall health.

Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace reports that less than a third of employees are engaged at work, and 70% are either not engaged or actively disengaged. Wellness programs, when implemented properly and integrated into company culture and the physical workplace, are critical to reversing this trend and boosting engagement and productivity.

The Challenge of Implementing a Wellness Program     

It’s easy to talk about workplace wellness, but implementation is a challenge that many companies struggle with. The companies that see the most success from wellness programs, such as Zappos and Google, understand that these programs need to be designed to meet the unique needs and interests of their workforce to get the highest employee and management buy-in.

Wellness initiatives can range from healthy snacks and preventative healthcare to targeted illness management programs and health-focused environmental design in the workplace. But whatever specific initiatives are in the wellness program, it is important that it is coordinated across the organization, is designed for and actively engage employees, and is driven by outcomes. CUNA’s white paper on credit union wellness, “Good Health is Good Business,” says that some of the biggest mistakes in implementing a wellness program come from not following these strategies.

But most companies find that the investment is worth it, with 70% of all American employers, including small businesses, offering wellness programs to their employees.

Let’s start a conversation about wellness! Reach out and tell us your experiences or ask us any questions, and stay tuned for our next blog in when we’ll discuss how workplace design and cultural changes can impact employee wellness.

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