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6 Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs

Wellness programs are becoming increasingly common for employers of all sizes. Although such programs used to be a perk only offered by large corporations, it has now become a standard at many smaller companies. It has become the norm for employers to offer employee wellness and health programs, similar to other standard employee benefits often provided, such as 401Ks, paid time off, and health insurance.

Employers are curious about wellness programs, and many would like to implement such a program within their company if they have not already done so. However, employers want to know, how do wellness programs benefit companies? Before taking the time and allocating the budget to implement a wellness program, employers want to know how wellness programs benefit companies and what they can expect in return.

When implemented correctly, a workplace wellness program offers several benefits. It can motivate employees to take better care of their health and provide them with the tools, support, and awareness needed to understand their risks and establish better behaviors. Employee well-being programs also provide many benefits for employers. Following are several benefits of workplace wellness programs—for both employers and employees.

The top 6 benefits of workplace wellness programs

Why are wellness programs important? Implementing a workplace well-being program has many wellness benefits for employees and employers, including the following:

  • Increasing healthy behaviors
  • Reducing healthcare costs
  • Improving productivity and engagement
  • Decreasing absenteeism
  • Enhancing recruitment and retention
  • Boosting morale and company culture

1.      Employee wellness programs increase healthy behaviors

Workplace wellness programs help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors through education, skills, motivation, and support. A population health program that connects employees to lifestyle change programs such as the National Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) can have a lasting impact on health.

The National DPP conducted a study of overweight participants with prediabetes to determine the effectiveness of different treatment methods. The study showed that those enrolled in a lifestyle change program not only lost weight and reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but also reduced their risk of heart disease and lowered their blood pressure and triglyceride levels by the end of the study.1

In a Centers for Disease Control (CDC)-recognized DPP like Omada, participants focus on adopting a healthier diet and adding regular physical activity to their day. Employees work with a dedicated health coach and can participate in group support as well. When employees adopt healthier behaviors through lifestyle change programs like Omada, the result is lower health risks and less chronic disease.

2.      Employee wellness programs reduce healthcare costs

Quantifying the total dollars saved from a well-being program can be a challenge, but it is possible to estimate the impact of a lab-based screening program on risk identification. For wellness programs that offer lab-based testing to help identify chronic disease risks, participants spend 30% less in overall per-employee per-year claims.2

For a population of 10,000 employees, an annual lab-based screening program will identify approximately 2,000 previously unrecognized cases of chronic disease.3 That translates into 170 employees at risk of diabetes, 60 at risk of kidney disease, and 500 at risk of cardiovascular disease, which adds up to a total potential cost of over $4 million.4,5

3.      Employee wellness programs improve productivity and engagement

Another benefit of well-being programs is that employees who participate and have healthier habits are more productive and engaged at work. According to the CDC, the total losses related to personal or family health issues cost employers in the US over $200,000 billion annually.6

Employee wellness programs can help create a sense of community, which can lead to employees feeling more engaged at work.7 Employees have opportunities to connect with one another, which can help combat workplace loneliness and increase job satisfaction.

When employees feel that their company population health program has a positive impact on their lives both within the workplace and outside of work, they are more likely to recognize other positive qualities of their employer, which also leads to increased job satisfaction overall.

4.      Employee wellness programs decrease absenteeism

According to the CDC, productivity losses due to employee absenteeism cost over $225 billion in the US, which is over $1,685 per employee.8 However, a wellness program can help decrease absenteeism and therefore reduce these costs.

There are several ways that employee wellness programs can improve employee health and as a result decrease absenteeism. Effective workplace population health programs can achieve the following:

  • Improve employee health and behaviors that impact physical and mental health
  • Give employees tools to cope with stress
  • Help employees reduce and maintain appropriate blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels
  • Help employees lose weight or maintain a healthy weight

Such positive changes lead not only to improved health for employees, but also decrease absenteeism and therefore lower costs for the employer.

5.      Employee wellness programs improve recruitment and retention

Offering a workplace well-being program can also help companies hire—and retain—desired employees. When choosing an employer, 87 percent of employees consider health and wellness packages to be important factors.9 Therefore, it’s clear that wellness programs are a crucial selling point—and for some, even a requirement. In fact, in the current hiring environment, offering a wellness program has become an expectation rather than simply a “nice to have” perk.

In addition to being an important consideration for hiring new employees, offering a well-being program is essential for retaining quality employees. Employees are more likely to stay with a company with a robust benefits package; individuals are inclined to remain loyal to a company when they see that the company is invested in their well-being. Surprisingly, even when employees don’t take advantage of the wellness benefits their employer offers, they still consider wellness programs to be vital to employee job satisfaction.10

6.      Employee wellness programs improve morale and company culture

In addition to being able to hire and retain employees, employers strive to create a workforce of engaged, happy employees. Offering a workplace well-being program can help with that goal, as it often leads to higher morale and improved company culture.

Offering wellness benefits shows employees that they are appreciated and respected and that the company cares about them and values their health and well-being. One study of full-time employees whose companies provided wellness programs found that 89 percent of employees surveyed said that participation in a workplace wellness program has improved their overall happiness and well-being.11

The benefits of implementing a workplace wellness program are numerous, and they positively impact both the company (and its bottom line) and the employees who work there. 

References:

1.      “Prediabetes & Insulin Resistance.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Last reviewed May 2018.

2.      Estimated cost savings based on 2018 Quest Diagnostics Blueprint for Wellness data.

3.      Estimated number of unrecognized at-risk individuals identified annually based on 2018 Quest data and extrapolated to an employer population of 10,000 employees. For new programs, number identified in first year will be higher than current estimate.

4.      Dall, TM, Yang, W, Halder, P, et. al. The economic burden of elevated blood glucose levels in 2012: diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes, gestational diabetes mellitus, and prediabetes. DiabetesCare. 2014;37(12): 3172-3179. Accessed April 6, 2020. doi:10.2337/dc14-1036

5.      O’Sullivan, AK, Rubin, J, Nyambose, J, et. al. Cost estimation of cardiovascular disease events in the US. Pharmacoeconomics. 2011;29(8): 693-704. Accessed April 6, 2020. doi: 10.2165/11584620-000000000-00000

6.      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Worker productivity measures. Page last reviewed 2016.

7.      Forbes. Your employee engagement strategy needs more wellness. July 2018. Accessed December 6 2021.

8.      CDC Foundation. Worker illness and injury costs US employers $225.8 billion annually. January 2015. Accessed December 7, 2021.

9.      Employee Benefit News. Job satisfaction and wellness programs: cause and effect. February 2014. Accessed December 7, 2021.

10.   Employee Benefit News. Wellness programs retain talent—even if workers don’t use them. January 2019. Accessed December 8, 2021.

11.   Becker’s Hospital Review. Workplace culture of wellness leads to increased employee engagement, productivity, and happiness: 5 findings. February 2016. Accessed December 8, 2021.

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