Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs
By: Nicole Malone, Founder/CEO Dark Horse Nutrition LLC
From reduced healthcare costs to increased employee morale, there are many benefits for employers to offer wellness programs and services to employees. As healthcare costs continue to rise, employers and employees are seeking for ways to lower their costs. Preventative health and wellness programs do just that! These programs are designed to help improve employees’ behavior to achieve better health and thus decrease the bottom line of the organization. By offering employees the tools and ability to take control of their health and wellness, employers promote a healthier, more productive workplace culture. A well-executed program can reduce health care costs, increase employer recruitment and retention, and boost productivity, providing further support for the inherent correlation between personal health and job satisfaction, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. I bet you are asking yourself by now what is employee wellness and how does it work? That is the exact intention of this article. So, let’s dig in.
While employee wellness has no official definition, in simple terms employee wellness programs are offered by the employer to improve employee health and wellness. Employees spend the vast majority of their waking hours in the workplace, so helping employees achieve their wellness goals while maintaining a work-life balance is key. These programs must consistently evolve to meet the needs and goals of employees while at the same time meeting the needs of the employer. Because of the constantly evolving nature of wellness programs, they come in all shapes, forms, and offerings. Below are just some of the benefits of employee wellness programs.
Benefit #1: Increase healthy behavior which curbs the risk of preventable diseases and illnesses.
Wellness programs can help employees fight off preventable diseases and chronic illnesses such as obesity, type II diabetes, high cholesterol, and glucose. Employee wellness programs are perfect for guiding people through adopting and maintaining healthy behaviors and habits. By providing quality information or education sessions, tools, support and accountability, challenges and movement, people will learn how to make lasting changes that will result in an overall healthier lifestyle. The key is to offer a well-rounded wellness program that specifically addresses areas such as weight management, mental health, exercise, etc. A healthy employee leads to a healthy business.
Benefit #2: Reduction in medical/insurance costs.
“You can expect the cost of medical and drug benefits to rise by 5% in 2019.” (Lankford, 2018) As healthcare costs continue to rise, both employers and employees are looking for ways to cut costs, and wellness programs offer just that! In fact, a study conducted by Harvard researchers on the return on investment of wellness programs concluded that medical costs fell about $3.27 for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs. (Baicker, Cutler, & Song, Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, 2010) Of course, the delivery methods of the program are what drives the effectiveness, so truly tapping into the needs of the employees and tailoring the services to meet their needs is where you will see the most bang for your buck.
Benefit #3: Improve productivity.
There are many reasons employees have low productivity from lack of exercise, poor health and/or diet, tobacco use and so much more. Whatever the reasons, poor productivity exists. When employees are physically present at work but not mentally there can be defined as presenteeism. Presenteeism will likely result in increased mistakes on the job, failure to meet deadlines, and so much more. The cost of this type of productivity issue can be very costly to the employer if not appropriately addressed. It is important to note, however, that this type of lack of productivity doesn’t inherently mean that the employee doesn’t want to put their best foot forward and give their best effort. It just means that while physically present at work there may be outside factors affecting their ability to give 100% effort and attention to their work such as illness, physical or emotional pain, or some sort of outside stressor that has their mind preoccupied. Much of the research and data published clearly shows that presenteeism and productivity are often times associated with poor health behaviors and habits. (Aldana, 2021) Incorporating a well-thought-out and developed wellness program that focuses on helping improve employee focus and stress management, for instance, will eventually have a positive impact on productivity and improved employee performance.
Benefit #4: Increased recruitment and retention.
While there is no research to back this claim up, employers who offer wellness benefits and incentives are saying, “We think of you as a valued part of our company and truly care about you, your health, and your overall happiness.” If you interviewed to work for a company with that mentality, wouldn’t you strongly consider jumping on that opportunity? When employers offer these types of benefits, they are putting the health of their employees at the forefront because they know a healthy and happy employee will ultimately lead to a healthy and fruitful business. A perfectly structured and delivered wellness program will lead to loyal employees thus creating high retention rates. Personnel is the most important asset a company has, so treating them as such will help them feel like a valued part of the company community and culture.
Benefit #5: Employees want wellness programs.
Again, there is no real research to support this claim, but it is no secret that no human wants to lead an unhealthy and unhappy lifestyle. It is clear from my own personal experience working with companies that offer wellness programs and speaking with colleagues that the anecdotal evidence is clear that wellness programs offer a great return on value on investment. The perfect way to bring this point home is to briefly mention Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In case you aren’t familiar, this is essentially a motivation theory in psychology that comprises a five-tier structure with the most important needs at the base and the wants and desires towards the top as you will notice in the below picture.
(Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, n.d.)
As you can see, the basic needs for us to sustain life are at the base of the pyramid while the top fulfills our wants and needs once our basic needs have been met. Employee wellness programs address the top two, maybe three sections of the pyramid and this alone is why offering such programs are an important addition to help the employee feel welcomed, needed, and valued. Employees have the highest morale, productivity, and happiness when they are free to be creative, problem-solve, feel appreciated, achieve personal and professional goals and milestones, and so much more.
There is an enormous amount of research and data that show the immense benefits of employee wellness programs. A well-delivered customized wellness program is going to improve employees’ overall health and as a result, improve the employer’s bottom line. A solid employee wellness program will improve the health of employees as well as the health of the organization which will drive long-term success of the organization.