Successful Wellness Program

Starting or expanding a successful wellness program makes good business sense on many different levels.  Any steps taken that result in maintaining or improving overall employee wellness will benefit both employee and employer.  Many benefits are directly measurable, while others have indirect or less easily measured positive effects on a business.  A good way to measure wellness is to establish wellness in terms of overall diet, exercise, habits control and stress relief.

In the past, many businesses have looked upon wellness programs as a perk or a nicety for their employees because employees were in better health, and health care costs were relatively low.  The combination of  various factors including  rising obesity rates and health care costs have changed this equation in favor of wellness programs.

Today, health care costs are much higher and the relative wellness of the population is much worse.

Obesity statistics from 1988 to 2008 in America:

  • Normal weight went from 44.1% to 32.1%
  • Overweight from 32.7% to 33.6%
  • Obese from 23.2% to 34.3%
  • Morbidly obese went from 3% to 6%

If your workforce is typical of the nation, and you have 20 employees:

  • 6 are of normal weight
  • 6 are overweight
  • 7 are obese
  • 1 is morbidly obese

Obesity is a leading risk factor in a person’s susceptibility to a wide variety of preventable diseases.  As a group’s overall weight drops, so does the incidence and susceptibility to preventable disease.  A wellness program that led to a drop of 10% in health care costs in 1988 would have saved a company $200 per employee per year; the same 10% savings today is over $1,100 per employee per year.

The University of Oregon conducted a cost benefit analysis of the Coors Brewing Company’s wellness program in 1988.  Using conservative measurements, they estimated that the program would yield between $ 1.24 and $8.33 per dollar invested in the program.  The analysis was based on short and long term benefits from health care costs, sick leave costs, productivity costs, and turnover costs.   Such results are an impressive testament for wellness programs and when you factor in today’s much higher healthcare costs, it is easy to see that a there are compelling reasons to invest in wellness.

A wellness program needs to be seen as an investment in one of your most important assets, your people.  They produce products, perform services, and interact with customers and vendors to make your business successful.  Taking time to “sharpen their saw” makes a workforce more productive.

Studies and experience have shown that a well-designed, promoted, funded and supported wellness program will yield results in the following ways:

  1. Productivity– People in better condition are more alert at work, have more energy, and interact with co-workers better, which results in better productivity.
  2. Morale– Healthier people have more vitality and a better outlook on themselves as well as work in general.  Improved personal and professional outlook leads to better workplace morale.
  3. Retention Rate– An integrated wellness program that emphasizes a balance of diet, exercise, habits and stress relief is a very valuable perks to an employee; all other things being equal, a strong wellness program will influence employees to stay with a current company.
  4. Absenteeism and Presenteeism– The better the wellness of an employee, the less susceptible they are to preventable diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and some gastric conditions.  Fewer illnesses means that the company will experience fewer absences due to illness, and fewer instances of employees coming to work with an illness that would otherwise keep them home.
  5. Mortality Rate – Obesity can cut up to 10 years off a person’s life expectancy.
  6. Accidents/Workman’s Compensation– Healthier people have fewer accidents at work, and therefore, fewer Workman’s Compenstion claims are filed.
  7. Long Term Health Insurance Costs– As wellness improves within an organization, managers can strategically re-position the company in terms of health insurance to provide the best value proposition for all employees.

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