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Well, well, well!

Mark Roberts

A woman stacking an orange, an apple and a strawberry in the palm of her hand.

The big buzzword today in corporate HR circles is Wellness.  Employers who use the adage “A healthy worker is a happy worker” know for a fact that employees who practice preventive health measures are the ones that are the most productive, miss the least amount of work, and have better relationships with co-workers, family, and friends.  It’s a given that when you feel lousy, you typically are not in a good mood and your work suffers.  Also, if you’re missing a lot of work due to easily preventable health issues, your personal income is affected, and the bottom line of the company suffers as well.  Wellness plans offered by employers take an extra step in assisting employees manage personal health care needs, relative to weight loss, smoking cessation, fitness, and much more.  Some companies provide services as part of the benefits package, and some are available on an opt-in basis.  Overall, however, any company looking to retain healthy workers and keep them from becoming medical liabilities to the company will offer some type of plan suited to wellness.

How do you define wellness?  Everyone in the market place continually hears this word during the news, in conversations, at work or read it in newspapers, magazines and the like.  Surprisingly, there’s no definition of wellness that seems to be universally accepted, according to BusinessProposals.com. Nonetheless there is a set of general characteristics found in most good attempts at defining wellness.

Corporate wellness programs are designed to nurture wellness in workers, regardless of the work environment.  Corporate wellness programs could be found in factories, corporate offices, large corporations, and small corporations alike.  Having an employee wellness program in place can boost morale, improve health and fitness and increase productivity in the workplace.  If you are an employer that has taken the steps necessary to begin an employee wellness program, how do you get your workers interested and willing to participate?

Company wellness programs, according to the Dallas Business Journal, should be a lot like personal exercise programs:  You start with a plan.  You start slowly.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.  And it should pay off in the end.  Companies need to start wellness programs as soon as possible, even if that means they’re not perfectly mapped out.   Simple steps include removing smoking areas, encouraging employees to use the stairs, or starting a weight-loss challenge in which the winner gets a day off.  HIPAA makes some exceptions for wellness programs, but does not allow employers to tie certain health-related outcomes to their wellness programs.  That means employers are better off asking employees to attend a smoking cessation program rather than requiring them to quit smoking, and better off asking employees to walk 20 minutes three times a week rather than requiring them to achieve a certain body-mass index.  Another law, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, prevents wellness programs from giving employees rewards for completing a health risk assessment that contains questions about genetic information, including family medical information.

Employers are making headway in using wellness plans to create healthier workforces, and that leads to lower costs, according to Kiplinger.com.  The most successful employers use significant incentives, such as lower health insurance premiums or cash rewards, to spur exercising and healthful eating.

Many companies also offer on-site fitness centers and healthy dinners to go, as well as outreach programs to family members.  All agree that visible participation by company leadership and strong communication about what wellness programs offer are vital to success.

According to WellnessProposals.com, company wellness programs are a long-term investment.  But how long should you wait for results?  Finance and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) want hard numbers to show return on investment (ROI).  And wellness ROI is tougher to calculate than other types of financial investment, say, a 401(k).  Workplace wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes.  But regardless of plan design there are five common components that set the successful programs apart from the rest. How does a worksite wellness program affect a company?  Worksite wellness programs undoubtedly benefit both the corporations and staff members.  Numerous studies have found a direct link, showing that healthful staff members make happy staff members, hence increasing productivity in the workplace.

Company initiatives to promote worker wellness — from on-site yoga classes to smoking cessation programs — are becoming more widespread as employers wrestle with soaring health care costs, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Whether or not insurance plans help subsidize the costs, companies that invest in employee wellness should see a payoff, studies show.  However, gym membership by themselves may not bring a huge financial return to employers.  People who were going to join are joining anyway.  If you’re not branding it as part of a broader wellness program, there’s no return on investment.  It’s the creative incentives that could help employers realize more long-term savings.  For instance, companies might offer the health club discount and $100 to employees who complete a biometrics screening and then consult with a health coach.  Some provide insurance premium differentials to employees who don’t smoke.

The success of any company depends very heavily on the productivity and work performance of its human resources, according to WellnessQuotes.com.  Wellness programs focus on the physical well being of employees, looking after medical requirements and ensuring personal health is a priority.  Many programs offer weight loss regimes, smoking cessation programs, stress management and exercise, diet and fitness advice.  Some go further with offering some more exotic items such as cafeterias that serve only healthy foods, campus bicycles, onsite classes for yoga and martial arts, and more.  Here are ten reasons why having an employee wellness program makes sense:

#1 Decreased Health Care Costs

The implementation of wellness programs has proven effective in reducing company health care costs. The concept of a wellness program was introduced initially for dual purposes.  Rising health costs meant employers were looking for a way to minimize the expense whilst maintaining healthy human resources. The inception of wellness programs provided an effective solution.  Wellness programs significantly reduce the high company cost of employee health care.

#2 Work Place Morale

Wellness programs cover a broad range of healthcare initiatives.  From nutritional advice to exercise programs and medical cover these programs look after diverse employee needs.  The effectiveness of a wellness program in terms of the office environment is simple.  Employees are healthy therefore on the whole a lot happier; this equates to maximized performance.  They are also aware that the company is taking measures to ensure their health and wellbeing this breeds loyalty and responsibility.

#3 Reduced Absenteeism

There are many factors that influence a person’s health and well being.  These could be minor infliction such as a cold or flu or major such as heart problems or obesity.  Any of these could result in the employee taking time off work.  The benefit of a Wellness Program is that this time will be significantly reduced, if not avoided all together. There are many small changes in lifestyle that can influence overall health and wellbeing.  A wellness program identifies these, educates and implements them.  Through education, training and professional health care a wellness program can greatly reduce absenteeism.

For your company this is the bottom line, reduced absenteeism equals a reduction in costs and an increase in productivity.

#4 Reduced Overall Costs

Employee wellness programs have a range of benefits for employers. Both quantifiable figures and intangible results highlight these.  For the company as a whole one of the most significant benefits is the reduction in overall company costs.  It is hard to quantify what you gain via increased morale, productivity and work performance however the reduced sick leave, absenteeism and lower health costs contribute to a sizable reduction in overall costs.

#5 Increased Productivity

The main aim of an employee wellness program is to encourage employees to lead healthier lifestyles.  This is affected through education, incentives and health care directed by the company and the wellness program.  It is proven that when an employee is healthy they are more productive–being healthy increases concentration, energy levels and output.  It also ensures you are able to consistently perform at the desired level.  Increased productivity in the work place is a by-product of the success of wellness programs.

#6 Increased Responsibility

An employee wellness program indicates to employees that the company cares about their well being. While it is common knowledge that these programs benefit employers, the benefits are mutual.  A well taken care of employee feels an affiliation with the company, and they develop a level of responsibility associated with their work.  This type of attitude within the work place is invaluable.  An employee that feels like the company takes in interest in their wellbeing and health will take an interest in performing to the best of their ability.

#7 Increased Company Loyalty

Increased employee loyalty is another significant selling point for employee wellness programs.  This is one of those intangible benefits that you really can’t put a price on.  Company loyalty means reduced costs in terms of recruitment and turnover.  This also makes for a more harmonious working environment.

#8 Reduced Sick Leave

Wellness programs have had a lasting impact on the cost of sick leave.  Through education, training regimes and lifestyle management these types of programs have considerably reduced the cost of sick leave.

#9 Improved Work Performance

The aim is to promote healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the amount of medical attention required. Lower medical costs are just the tip of the iceberg.  Employees who participate in these programs have noted a substantial improvement in work performance.

#10 Decreased Health Insurance Costs

Health insurance premiums are rising exponentially every year.  The cost is rapidly rising to the point where employers have to find new ways to reduce their health expenses.  Wellness programs have shown incredible returns and remarkable results.  Health costs for those companies using employee wellness programs are significantly reduced.

Also, if you are an employer or worker looking for a stand alone program, you may wish to consider non-insurance options, such as discount plans available in the market place through companies like Careington.  The company provides an individual retail plan including access to chiropractors, complementary alternative medicine such as tai chi, dieticians, yoga, massage therapy and more, smoking cessation, weight loss management, fitness clubs, lap band surgery discount, 24 hour nurse line, prescriptions, and some lifestyle services including ID theft protection and financial counseling. Employers wishing to duplicate the plan can get the products available at very preferred rates if given to the entire workforce, offer opt in as a payroll deduction, or sponsored on a voluntary basis by direct participation with the plan.  Savings on this type of program can range from 20% to 40% on services, and can be used immediately to access providers and products nationwide. And you don’t have to worry about using it too much as the rates never increase for participation.  Often the employee’s entire household can take advantage of the discounts based on the structure of the program. Imagine getting well and staying there for a nominal amount of money, plus save a lot when you use the wellness plan!

However, corporate wellness is not a program – it’s a culture.  In order to be an employer of choice you need to make a company-wide commitment to be the very best employer possible.  If your senior management sincerely embraces this endeavor and maintains open dialogue with employees, you don’t need fancy, branded programs with clever marketing.  Corporate wellness becomes part of the company’s culture, according to BusinessWeek.com.  By providing the very best wellness and other healthcare benefits, opportunities and resources, then in return, employees are happy, healthy, and provide the very best work and results for the company.  Listening to employees also makes a big difference.  As a result of direct feedback employers receive from employees, businesses are able to provide benefits that work and make a difference in the lives of workers and in the life of the company. Taking a holistic approach to wellness ensures your plan succeeds.  Your goal is to be the employer of choice not only for employees but also potential candidates.

About The Author

My professional sales background includes almost 30 years of sales and marketing in the tax, insurance, and investment markets. I have contributed to the CAREINGTON sales team in a variety of aspects, such as developing marketing materials and designing benefit plans, responding to RFPs, and adding both individuals and new groups to CAREINGTON membership. Part of my responsibilities include attending client conferences as a vendor rep for the company; and since September, 2001, I have also worked with the company to help recruit a network of hundreds of outside agents, re-sellers, and affinity groups to market CAREINGTON products.

Currently serving as Manager of National Accounts, my key focus is developing relationships with large national membership groups, insurance plans, employers, unions, and financial institutions. I am known as the hunter on our sales team, and have been privileged to work with many of our top clients in various areas of responsibility. Additionally, I assist individual retail consumers interested in our services.

My specialties also include almost 30 years experience in Sales and Marketing. I also serve as account manager to clients including financial institutions, insurance companies and national association groups. I am also a licensed life, health and accident insurance agent in all 50 states and DC, and I have participated in multiple large national employer open enrollments for worksite products including limited medical benefit plans, short term disability, term and universal life policies, cancer and critical illness policies, and many other insurance products offered through our sister company, Core Five Solutions, a nationwide insurance agency and licensed third party administrator.

Additionally, I have been writing a health care blog for the past 2 years, found at www.yourbesthealthcare.blogspot.com , which is a topical weblog about various health care issues. I have been noted recently also as the Medical Reporter for an online news service with over 120,000 subscribers at www.thecypresstimes.com , and have been pleased to regularly contribute articles for both medical and dental topics.

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