What It Is
A wellness program promotes the maintenance of good health rather than the correction of poor health. Depending on the structure and culture of an organization, a wellness program may include fitness programs, recreational opportunities, social activities, and programs to enhance intellectual and spiritual development.
Why It Matters
Workplace wellness programs can significantly impact a company’s bottom line, particularly in small businesses where employee well-being greatly affects overall productivity. Businesses that invest $1 in workplace wellness can often reap $3 to $5 in savings through lowered healthcare costs, decreased absenteeism, and decreased workers’ compensation claims.
The number of businesses offering wellness programs doubled in 2008 as more companies began to see the relationship between employee health and productivity. Fifty-four percent of firms offering health benefits now offer at least one of the following wellness programs as well:
- Weight loss programs
- Gym membership discounts or on-site exercise facilities
- Smoking cessation program
- Personal health coaching
- Classes in nutrition and healthy living
- Web-based resources for healthy living
- Wellness newsletters
Not all efforts towards wellness in the workplace have to happen on a large scale or be a part of a larger program. The following are some simple steps towards workplace wellness:
- Reducing unhealthy eating options in the workplace and making healthy food available
- Offering incentives for healthy behaviors
- Flexible scheduling to allow employees time to pursue healthy activities
- Subsidizing employee fitness center membership or purchasing a corporate fitness membership
- Healthy living newsletter
- Corporate fitness and weight loss challenges
Encouraging employees to use their vacation time and to relax on days off may also improve employee well-being. Despite a growing desire to spend more time with family and friends, 63 percent of Americans still work more than 40 hours a week. In addition, American employees hand back more than $21 billion in unused vacation days to employers each year.
- Conduct a health risk assessment
- Host health fairs and screenings
- Host on-site wellness seminars on a variety of topics
- Offer or support smoking cessation programs
- Offer or support weight loss programs
Encourage employee participation in wellness programs by offering financial incentives to join, such as lower deductibles or smaller shares of health insurance premiums. Another way to encourage participation is to offer a health insurance plan that includes a wellness component.
The Small Business Wellness Initiative is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Its website provides resources that can help you implement a wellness program in your small business.
Infinite Wellness Solutions provides web-based health, wellness, productivity, and disease management programs. Check out its guide to free worksite wellness programs.
Case studies regarding corporate wellness programs are frequently featured in national media. Here are some examples:
Health Fair: Corporate health fairs provide valuable health information and screening services to employees. Through early detection, health screenings may save your employees and company the emotional and financial costs of advanced medical conditions.
Health Risk Assessment: A Health Risk Assessment (HRA) is a computerized assessment tool which looks at an individual’s family history, health status and lifestyle. HRAs identify precursors associated with serious illness, and then quantify the probable impact for each individual.