Corporate wellness can be defined as an employer led initiative to promote the health and wellbeing of its employees. The goal is to lower employee healthcare costs through programs that help prevent accidents and the development and/or progression of diseases.
If you arrived at the office this morning to find your boss on the carpet in a lotus position and the vending machine dispensing Kashi bars instead of Cheetos then you may be the latest “victim” of a corporate wellness takeover. No need to fear, however, as it can actually be good for you (or your employees if you are the boss).
Altruistic motives aside, the cold truth is that your employer is betting that a healthier you will be a more productive you and save them money; specifically by reducing your days of sick leave and the money they pay out for medical and disability costs. Corporate wellness stems from a philosophy of prevention – it is cheaper to keep employees healthy than to make them healthy again. The importance of this for any business (regardless of whether you are an employer or employee) cannot be understated. But is there really any hard data to prove that wellness programs help a businesses’ bottom line?
First, it is important to understand that not all corporate wellness programs are created equal. A good corporate wellness program must promote change at the individual level as well as at the operational and corporate level. Participants must be engaged through education, effective communication and follow-up on topics such as nutrition, stress management, and fitness and exercise.
This requires an organizational culture of wellness with programs tailormade to each employee’s particular needs and circumstances. If not, don’t be surprised to see some of your co-workers head out the service entrance, scramble over the 12 foot razor-tipped containment fence, and sprint across the four-lane highway to the nearest convenience store for their Cheetos.
Multiple studies have shown a relationship between employee health and business productivity. One six year study by Goetzel RZ, Anderson DR, Whitmer W, Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL found that risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet and stress were responsible for 25 percent of a organization’s employee healthcare costs.1 Through the implementation of effective wellness programs, Dow Chemical Company reported savings of more than $3 million in 2008, in the United States alone. 2
Is it any wonder then that businesses are wising up to the fact that they must take their employee’s wellbeing seriously if they expect to remain competitive well into the 21st century? Testament to this awakening is the increasing acceptance of wellness programs by CEO’s and business leaders looking to maximize employee efficiency and lower business costs. A 2010 global survey by Towers Watson concludes that “Wellness will be a major focus for employers and insurers in the future as a vital tool to mitigate medical trend increases.” 3
So if your next business meeting starts with pretzel-like yoga stretches, oriental wind chimes and a steaming cup of green tea, don’t fret it; you are contributing to your company’s bottom line and becoming healthier to boot (at least until your chiropractor unravels you)!
“A good corporate wellness program must promote change at the individual level as well as at the operational and corporate level. Participants must be engaged through education, effective communication and followup on topics such as nutrition, stress management, and fitness and exercise”
1. Goetzel RZ, Anderson DR, Whitmer W, Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL, et al. 1998. The relationship between modifi able health risks and health care expend itures: an analysis of the multi-employer HERO health risk and cost database. J. Occup. Environ. Med. 4:843–571
2. The Health and Productivity Advantage 2009/2010 Staying@Work Report originally published by Watson Wyatt Worldwide
3. Towers and Watson 2011 Global Medical Trends Survey Report 3
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