Benefits of Corporate Wellness Programs: Making Changes

Black and white image of a gym with cardio equipment

Guest Post by Shyam Bhardwaj

Corporate lifestyles are causing a significant proportion of the U.S. workforce to face lesser productivity. Sedentary lifestyles, poor nutritional choices, bad posture, improper work-life balance, and excessive alcohol use have all been identified as contributors to chronic illnesses among workers.

Chronic illness has become a major burden on the workplace due to health care costs, absenteeism, and reduced employee productivity when at work.

Work-load and associated stress levels undeviatingly impact mental as well as physical health.

The American Heart Association uses CVH metrics to define physical health comprising several observations, including non-smoking, body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol, etc. Reportedly, CVH metrics + Healthy Diet + Physical Activity are arbitrarily linked with better engagement and performance.

Open office space with people working

Many organizations have addressed these issues by inducting workplace wellness programs to inspire employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. Programs are either implemented directly by the employer or through a program developed by the company's health-care provider.

Cited by the RAND report, nearly half of U.S.-based employers run a sort of wellness program. 

Most of these programs combine screening for risk factors with interventions to reduce risk. Individual's data set on weight, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and fitness habits are commonly collected by employers as part of these wellness initiatives.

Interventions offered in the wellness programs involve smoking cessation programs, on-site weight measurements, on-site vaccinations, weight-loss competitions, nutrition educational activities, stress management educational activities, substance abuse counseling, and fitness promotion programs. About half of the employers with wellness initiatives also offer disease management assistance, with diabetes as the most commonly targeted condition.

The biggest obstacle for employers to make these programs extremely successful is the ratio of positive participation from employees. The majority of wellness programs used incentives such as money and prizes to encourage employee participation in the programs.

Organizational wellness programs might differ based on personalized goals and company-size, but usually, the following points decide the wellness plan structure:

  • What is pushing the most extravagant claims onto your health care plan.
  • Humanize your organization and set realistic expectations.
  • Integration of workplace wellness with other benefits.
  • Lead by example; Practice what you preach.
  • Implementation is the key.

Corporate wellness programs do more than just promote healthy lifestyles among employees. Aside from providing positive reinforcement to get in shape, they also boost the company's bottom line. 

Friends sitting on a lawn at sunset looking out over the city

In the past, employers used to do small things to encourage employee health like hanging motivational posters or encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. Today, companies are shelling out significant sums of money for wellness programs because they really do work. The initial investment ends up paying for itself and then some over the long haul. 

Let's take a look at a couple of benefits of taking the wellness plunge.

Fewer sick days 

Corporate wellness programs typically offer employees incentives for reaching health goals and sometimes even punish them with a bit of negative reinforcement for being unhealthy. The result is a significant improvement in overall employee health. 

When employees understand how to live a healthy lifestyle and are encouraged to do so through a corporate wellness program, they get sick less often. This helps the company stay profitable.

Fewer workers' compensation claims 

Better levels of health are directly linked to fewer workers' compensation claims. Employees who are in shape are less likely to strain muscles, tear ligaments, and break bones while performing work activities.

Healthcare savings

Corporate wellness programs boost a company's bottom line by saving money on health insurance costs.

In a study conducted by Richard Milani and Carl Lavie, over 185 couples were given cardiac rehabilitation training. Over 100 couples recovered from high-risk to low-risk health status at the end of a six-month wellness program.

The savings is passed on to the company in the form of reduced healthcare premiums and fewer workers' compensation claims.

Mutual benefits

One of the best aspects of a corporate wellness program is that it has the potential to be mutually beneficial to both the company and the employees. Most employers will provide financial rewards to employees who hit health benchmarks for things like blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels.

Increased happiness

Healthy people are generally much happier people than those who are unhealthy. Happier people are also more likely to show up to work and take fewer sick days and personal time off. 

Beyond merely showing up for work, happy employees are also much more productive than their unhealthy counterparts and will boost the company's bottom line. 

Don't underestimate how contagious a positive attitude can be. Happy people liven up the workplace atmosphere and lift the moods of others, making the environment much more productive.

Man presenting to associates in a corporate office

External benefits 

One of the best ways to sell employees on a wellness plan is to stress the fact that it can benefit them beyond the workplace. Although the company's primary interest is maintaining a healthy workforce, it can also benefit from an employee who has a happy life outside of work. 

Those who enjoy their time off of work will be much more productive while on the clock. If employees understand that a wellness program will help them get in shape so that they can spend more quality time with their family and live a long life, they'll be more likely to participate in the program with sincere interest and effort.

Long-term investment 

While a corporate wellness program will be a sizable initial investment, it will eventually produce results. The key is patience. Once employees get in the habit of taking care of themselves, they'll be more likely to practice healthy behaviors over an extended period of time. The result will be a healthier, happier workforce that lowers the employer's future healthcare premiums and workers' compensation claim costs.

Group mentality

One of the more interesting aspects of corporate wellness programs is that employees are much more likely to participate because their co-workers do. While it is difficult for an individual to motivate himself to sign up for a gym or start a workout routine all by himself, it is much easier for him to participate in a wellness program when his peers do it with him. Nobody wants to be the odd man left out.

When asked, employers tended to be confident that wellness programs were effective and cost-saving for the corporations. It pays off in reduced absenteeism and boosted productivity, plus a fairly large discount on its healthcare costs from its healthcare provider.

Shyam Bhardwaj has over seven years of experience in marketing and branding space. With background experience in software engineering, he also deals with IT and web development areas. He often writes about entrepreneurship journey, start-up success stories, marketing hurdles, and business operations.

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