Business of Well-being

New Study Says Active Participation in Wellness Programs Increase Employee Productivity

Wellness Programs

Workplace health and wellness programs are increasing in the United States, according to new research released in April 2019. The Results of the Workplace Health in America Survey says nearly half of all workplaces in the nation offer some level of health promotion or wellness programs. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and RTI International, states 17% of U.S. companies with 50 or more employees offer comprehensive workplace health promotion programs.

The increase in wellness programs is not surprising since many organizations have goals of reducing healthcare costs. In addition, corporate wellness initiatives are being promoted to attract and retain today’s more health-conscious professionals.

Long-Term Benefits of Wellness Programs

When employees are engaged in a workplace wellness program over several years, they are likely to see even more health benefits.

Go365®, a personalized wellness and rewards program, just released a five-year study revealing that the program could show bottom line benefits to an organization. Overall, the percentage of members who engaged in healthy lifestyle behaviors (eating fruits and vegetables, exercising more a week) and who had healthy biometric results (such as blood pressure) increased over the course of five years.

Also by year 5, Go365’s study found high-engaged members:

  • Paid an average of $116 less in healthcare than low-engaged members
  • Compared with low-engaged members, reported 55 percent fewer Unhealthy Days, which can reflect productivity, absenteeism, and presenteeism (when employees are physically present at work but not working at full performance).
  • Had an average of 35 percent fewer emergency room visits and 30 percent fewer hospital admissions than low-engaged members.
Wellness Programs & Employee Productivity

One area of particular interest for organizations is aligning wellness programs with employee productivity. According to the Go365 Five-Year Study, employees who are highly engaged in the wellness and rewards program over several years are more productive, with fewer Unhealthy Days.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study, Improving Employee Productivity Through Improved Health, which employees participating in wellness programs made lifestyle changes that saved their companies about $353 in recouped productivity per person annually. The study found employees who successfully improved their lifestyle and focused on healthcare, gained 10.3 hours in additional productive time annually, compared with similar but non-participating employees.

Another study from the University of California Riverside, Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity, found that all employees who participated in a wellness program improved productivity an average of one full work day a month.

The study's first author is Timothy Gubler, an assistant professor of management in the School of Business at UC Riverside, who said, "When workers discover unknown health problems through the program they may feel increased gratitude toward their employer and reciprocate that by increasing their efforts. Additionally, when programs help employees make healthy choices this can positively impact their wellness, mood, energy, and ultimately increase their productivity through increased capability.”

Minimizing sick days isn’t the only factor impacted by workplace wellness initiatives. Corporate wellness programs support employees’ physical, mental, emotional and financial health. In addition to reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, employee turnover is minimized. Decreasing workplace disruption results in lower stress levels, increased employee engagement and team members who are more focused on their tasks, roles and responsibilities.

Gubler continued, "Our research suggests that corporate wellness plans can boost employee satisfaction by offering a tangible benefit that empowers them to take care of their health in a way that's integrated into their busy lives. The result is healthier and happier employees who are not only less expensive and less absent, but also more productive.”

Choosing an Employee Wellness Program that Boosts Productivity

Embracing a culture of wellness has proven to benefit employers and employees. Go365’s Five Year Study demonstrates that employees’ active engagement in wellness initiatives over several years positively impacts employee health and productivity.

If increasing productivity is a business objective for your workplace wellness initiatives, here’s a checklist to boost employee productivity:

  • Elevate Your Workplace’s Culture
    In your wellness communications and events, you can spotlight a culture of team collaboration, continuous improvement and a winning attitude. A focus on high performance can be encouraged in your wellness program by including gamification and friendly competition among employees during events and fitness challenges.
  • Develop a wellness program that can be adapted to your organization’s own culture.
    You may have heard about the importance of personalization for the individual, and the same is true for organizations. For example, Go365 provides an online platform to its clients to choose from a range of wellness activities and events (such as step challenges or lunch ‘n learns) that are in harmony with the organization’s culture.
  • Leverage Tools and Technology
    Offer accessible tools for employees to manage their time, team interactions and project workflows. There are numerous apps for small to medium-sized businesses, as well as enterprise-level software that support time tracking, collaboration and project management. Communications platforms, such as instant messaging apps, are now available that also offer file sharing and access to streamline your teams’ workflow. Provide options for fitness trackers to encourage regular exercise, participation in fitness challenges and reinforce healthy choices.
  • Enhance Team Building and Camaraderie
    Wellness programs depend on participation by multiple employees, shared goals, group meetings, support groups and fitness activities. Team building, bonding and camaraderie will naturally occur. A successful strategy is to recruit and train wellness champions who serve as advocates for wellness initiatives. For instance, a Go365 Champ can help lead employer-sponsored activities and events to encourage greater participation and outcomes, as well as add more employee satisfaction.
  • Recognize and Incentivize
    Recognizing the quality of your teams’ work will encourage greater efficiencies and increased productivity. Ideas to incentivize productivity include handwritten thank you notes, offering PTO (paid time off), team happy hours or dinners, pot luck lunches, pizza parties, volunteering as a team, casual Fridays, or a “lazy Monday” coupon allowing employees to arrive late on a Monday morning.

For organizations that need to increase productivity, investing in a corporate wellness program will support your business goals. New studies show the long-term benefits of workplace wellness efforts. In addition, your wellness initiatives can enhance employee engagement, retention and ability to attract top talent. Your corporate wellness program can be your competitive advantage.

To learn more about the Go365 Five-Year Impact Study and make the most of your investments in your workplace wellness programs, visit or contact your Humana sales rep.

Learn about how you can become a Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist→