According to a 2010 survey of 500 U.S. businesses, 88% reported intentions of instituting employee wellness programs, an increase of 25% since 2007. 80% of those surveyed also reported that reduction of business costs was a priority. But don’t the additions of corporate wellness programs increase healthcare costs for businesses? And why the sudden surge of interest in these programs?
Healthy Employees Reduce Business Costs
Healthy employees reduce overall business costs. According to a 2010 article in Inc. magazine, return on investment for corporate wellness programs is $5.81 for every $1 spent. Companies with programs experience:
- Decreased health care claims
- Decreased absenteeism and the related costs of temporary personnel replacement
- Increased morale
- Increased productivity
- Decreased employee turnover, including hiring and training costs
Why & How Corporate Wellness Programs Work
According to the CDC, preventable and chronicIn a persistent and recurring way. disease are the driving factors of increased care costs for employers. Corporate wellness programs are founded on the idea that encouraging wellness and prevention of illness is more cost-effective than the treatment and business side effects of illnesses.
Heart disease, the number one killer in the world, is “largely preventable,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO also states 30% of cancers are preventable and, “prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer.”
In 2003, in a study entitled “An Unhealthy America: The Economic Impact of Chronic Disease,” more than 162 million cases of chronic and partially preventable diseases were reported; these included cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions. These cases cost the U.S. $277 billion in treatment and an amazing $1,046.7 billion in lost productivity.
Most of these chronic diseases can be prevented in part through a combination of healthy diet, regular exercise, and smoking cessation and can be caught in their earliest, most treatable stages through various screening methods. As a result, workplace wellness programs often include smoking cessation and weight loss counseling, health screenings, access to fitness facilities, and most importantly, health and diet education in group, one-one-one, telephone, or website formats.
Creating a Low-Cost Corporate Wellness Program
Businesses of all sizes can create effective wellness programs for their employees. Consider these low-cost healthy ideas:
- Organize a walking program
- Make fresh fruits available in the break room
- Make your business and grounds a smoke-free environment
- Invite health, fitness and diet professionals to give seminars, like the breast health programs given by The Maurer Foundation
- Offer on-site or paid time off for health screenings such as mammograms
- Partially or fully subsidize gym memberships
- Organize self-help groups for smoking and weight loss
- Give bonuses or prizes for quitting smoking or other healthy behavior
- Create a wellness newsletter for employees
Consider taking surveys to generate more ideas and create employee investment in the program. It’s important to have buy-in from management as well; find champions from all levels of your organization. The effort will be worth the long-term health and business benefits. Corporate wellness programs that promote healthy lifestyle and early detection cannot only improve lives for millions of Americans and their families but save their employers quite a bit of money.