Workplace wellness programs are an effective way to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism, improve behavior, and lessen or eliminate risk factors that contribute to physical and economic burdens.
There is good data to suggest that high levels of stress, excessive body weight, and other risk factors are associated with increased health care costs and illness-related absenteeism. These risk factors include cigarette smoking, obesity, hypertension, physical inactivity, and diabetes.
Unfortunately, wellness programs take time and resources, something many smaller employers may not have.
That’s where a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) comes in. Resourcing Edge, a Certified and Accredited PEO, helps businesses of all sizes thrive by taking on things like wellness programs, benefits administration, and other HR-related tasks and responsibilities.
We use our buying power, expertise, and technology to reduce the cost of effective wellness programs.
What Is an Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program?
Employer-sponsored wellness programs are a way to help maintain or improve employee health, wellbeing, and behavior. They range from simple to complex and vary depending on the type and size of the organization.
Human resource professionals play a central role in designing and implementing workplace wellness programs.
Often, they include incentive programs, health risk assessments, CPR and first-aid training, and onsite fitness classes.
Workplace Wellness Benefits
Hundreds of rigorous studies illustrate the efficacy of wellness programs. While the research isn’t perfect and causation is difficult to prove, study after study has shown the benefits of implementing one.
And the benefits aren’t just for employers and employees. When these programs are successful, the effects extend to family members, communities, and beyond.
It’s hard to measure the full impact of an effective wellness program, but here are some of the biggest benefits you can expect.
Health and Wellbeing
Workplace wellness programs help employees adopt and maintain healthier behaviors while helping to curb or quit unhealthy ones.
Most studies that have followed these programs for years demonstrate that employees eat healthier foods, exercise more often, and smoke and drink less. They are also better at recognizing and controlling stress levels. Wellness programs have also been shown to help with depression and improve life satisfaction.
Ultimately, happier and healthier employees result in reduced healthcare expenses, benefitting both the employee and employer.
You can substantially improve productivity levels by strategizing worksite wellness programs.
While it is difficult for wellness studies to quantify productivity in today’s post-manufacturing economy, it’s estimated that health-related productivity losses cost US employers $225.8 billion per year or $1685 per employee per year (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine).
The loss of productivity associated with depression, stress, and other risk factors is intimately connected with absenteeism and presenteeism rates (described below).
Absenteeism and Presenteeism
When an employer is absent from work (absenteeism) or on the job but impaired from health problems (presenteeism), the employer has to absorb the costs of lower productivity.
The more health risk factors an employee has, such as obesity, depression, and smoking, the higher the rates of absenteeism and presenteeism.
According to a study of 2250 employees at a petrochemical facility, the presence of 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more risk factors was associated with 4.1, 6.4, 8.8, 9.3, and 12.6 days of absenteeism respectively (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine).
Multiple studies and interventions have shown a direct correlation between changes in health risk factors and changes in absenteeism and presenteeism.
Reductions or increases in health risk factors are directly related to absenteeism and productivity levels.
Recruit and Retain Employees
Wellness programs can give you the competitive edge in recruiting and retaining top talent. While a lot of factors play a role in the decision to accept a job offer or stay with a company, free wellness perks can definitely help.
Health and wellbeing also have a noticeable impact on employee engagement and customer satisfaction.
Return on Investment
The return on investment for workplace wellness programs can manifest itself in various ways, such as decreased healthcare costs, increased productivity and performance, lower rates of tardiness and absenteeism, and a reduction of workers’ compensation and disability management costs.
A successful wellness program is a great investment for your business or organization. Keep in mind, however, that you may not see a return on investment for several years.
Studies have shown that the return on investment ranges from $3 to $15 for every dollar invested, with savings realized within 12 to 18 months. The same paper found an average 28% reduction in sick leave absenteeism, 26% reduction in healthcare costs, and 30% decrease in workers’ compensation and disability management claims costs (American Journal of Health Promotion).
Employers should know which metrics they will use to measure program success. Key metrics for measuring program effectiveness include productivity, sick days, health insurance use, recruitment, retention, and workers’ compensation and disability claims.
Common Components of Wellness Programs
Wellness programs go far beyond providing branded water bottles or Weight Watchers classes. They can include everything from flexible work options to personal finances.
Some popular wellness program components include:
- Tobacco cessation programs
- Regular physical activity
- Stress reduction programs
- Early detection and health screening
- Online health risk assessment
- Nutrition education and promotion
- Weight loss programs
- Disease management
- Healthy and wellness incentives
- Preventive health and wellness information
- 24-hour nurse line
- CPR and first-aid training
- Massage therapy services
- Onsite medical care
- Onsite fitness center
- Discounting or paying for fitness membership
- Outdoor sports courts and walking paths
- Financial education and counseling
- Flexible work policies
- Access to health insurance
- Changes in work culture and environment
Changes in Environment
Wellness programs should be designed with the social and physical environment in mind. There are many ways you can change the work culture and environment to facilitate healthy behaviors and promote occupational safety and health.
For instance, workplaces should be free from hazards that may jeopardize health, safety, and wellbeing.
Here are some examples of ways you can modify the social and physical workplace environment:
- Modify work stations and office layout
- Encourage physical activity
- Improve indoor air quality
- Provide and encourage nutritional food options
- Appoint capable and responsible managers
Although wellness programs should incorporate multiple strategies, research suggests that environmental modification and policy changes are more effective for producing sustained behavior change than education and screening programs.
Learn more about transforming the workplace into a major benefit.
How a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) Can Help with Workplace Wellness
Not all wellness programs will achieve the benefits outlined above. If designed and implemented well, however, workplace wellness programs can lead to significant cost savings, increased productivity, higher retention rates, and happier, healthier employees.
According to a RAND Corporation analysis, about half of all organizations with 50 or more employees offer wellness programs.
Unfortunately, smaller businesses encounter many barriers when it comes to workplace wellness programs, especially if they don’t have a central human resources function to organize and facilitate effective strategies.
This is a shame considering that a more intimate family-like atmosphere helps wellness programs succeed. Remember, little changes can go a long way when it comes to workplace wellness.
No matter the size of your business, there are many strategic, practical, and legal considerations to take into account when designing an effective wellness program.
Taking care of your employees’ health and wellbeing is crucial to your success. Contact Resourcing Edge to learn more about the wellness program and benefit plans we offer.