Is wellness at work a smart business strategy? Or is it just a fad destined to fade? The number of organizations embracing workplace wellness programs is growing over the years and the vast majority of companies that have implemented wellness programs have found that workplace wellness opened up fiscal opportunities.
Participating employees, on the one hand, tend to be happier, healthier and more productive. Companies and employers, on the other hand, are able to lower health care costs and other indirect expenses due to employees’ health-related issues. Workplace wellness is, in short, a proven business strategy to boost a company’s bottom line. Here’s why.
The True Cost of Poor Health
The US has the highest per person healthcare cost among industrialized countries, with one out of seven dollars spent on medical goods and services. What’s more, health spending is predicted to hit $4 trillion by 2015. But that’s not all. Indirect costs due to health-related issues make up a bigger part of the pie. Absenteeism and disability, both short-term and long-term, can bleed a company’s pockets dry. Unlike medical costs and pharmaceutical goods, indirect costs are generally not visible—thus often overlooked.
By promoting healthy lifestyles and preventative care, your company can dramatically reduce costly lifestyle-related problems. The key is to make it as easy as possible for your employees to participate in whatever program you put in place. If they are participating, you will see results. For example, data shows that employers who install a company gym and encourage employees to get 30 minutes of exercise have helped employees to reduce stress, lose weight, get fit and productive and even save money on health services and goods.
The ROI of Good Health
So what’s the point of investing in corporate wellness programs? There is great ROI in wellness. Katherine Baicker et al., published an authoritative study in the Journal of Health Management titled Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings. Their conclusion was telling. The researchers “found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.” And the best part is that the payback period is relatively short.
A Reasonable Wellness Budget
The 23-page research study clearly revealed the promises of wellness initiatives at work. Still, organizations will have to face one of the biggest challenges: wider adoption or full participation of all employees. The good news is, many companies already use a variety of strategies to encourage employee participation in health-related programs. A lot of them invest in onsite fitness facilities and offer free personal training. Many others run free yoga, CrossFit and Pilates classes and even help employees quit smoking.
Do these programs sound out of reach for your small business or growing company? No problem. Start by planning for the long run and deciding how everyone can contribute. Think of senior executives and middle managers. They should lead by example before they can encourage everyone in the company to adopt healthy lifestyles.
You can also appoint Wellness Program Managers and volunteer Wellness Champions who can encourage others to make healthy lifestyle choices. Think of employees who already set a good example for their co-workers. Find them and encourage them to help spread the wellness message. They don’t have to spend a lot of money. They can start with quick and inexpensive programs like healthy lunches, 30-minute walks, food tracking with cheap or free mobile apps and other simple strategies that are easy to implement. The idea is to help others realize how desirable and achievable a healthy lifestyle is.
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