The Business Case for Workplace Wellness

Investing in workplace wellness is socially responsible and makes good business sense. The benefits to employees and employers are far reaching. It is estimated that 70 percent of health care spending can be attributed to behavioral and lifestyle choices. Consequently, strategically designed investment in employee wellness pays great dividends in the long run. For instance, Johnson & Johnson estimates that wellness programs have saved the company $250 million on health care costs over the past decade, with a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent. Additionally, Pacific Bell Telephone Company decreased costs related to absenteeism by $2 million after instituting a wellness program. Clearly, studies show that corporate wellness programs designed to improve the physical, social and mental health of employees, lead to effective health care cost reduction as well as productivity enhancements.

The financial impact of rising healthcare costs is a serious challenge to every company’s bottom line. The cost of health insurance and health care has severely outpaced the rate of inflation, hurting corporate profitability and worker earnings. To illustrate, if food prices had risen at the same rate as medical inflation since the 1930’s, one dozen eggs would cost $80.20. For many employers, the price of healthcare benefits is becoming increasingly unaffordable. According to a 2016 SHRM Survey, employers spent an average of $8,669 per employee annually on health care coverage. In today’s economic climate, offering a competitive health care benefits package is an important tool for attracting top talent and building a sustainable, competitive workforce.

Aside from monetary implications, the physiological and behavioral effects of workplace wellness programs benefit society and align with business objectives. These programs help lower risky conditions by promoting healthy habits, such as regular exercise and proper nutrition. This reduces common health problems like obesity, Type II diabetes and elevated cholesterol. In addition to increasing the availability of healthy foods, many companies are now offering free on-site group fitness classes and yoga sessions, as well as discounted gym memberships. Regular exercise is proven to strengthen the heart, reduce body fat, stabilize glucose, improve blood flow and promote healthy cholesterol levels. This is especially important because according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease causes 1 out of every 4 deaths in the United States. Moreover, exercise improves bone density and helps maintain healthy bone mass, which reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis. Undoubtedly, a healthier workforce reduces levels of absenteeism because healthy employees miss fewer days of work.

Surprisingly, wellness programs also deliver broad social and mental health benefits. From a physiological perspective, regular aerobic activity boosts the production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which are neurotransmitters that regulate mood and drive feelings of calm and happiness. In fact, studies show that exercise reduces stress, anxiety, tension and even helps treat depression. Further, wellness programs offer an incredible opportunity to bring colleagues together, who might otherwise work independently on an everyday basis. This improves the corporate culture by increasing engagement and collaboration, which strengthens internal relationships and naturally fosters a can-do attitude. Increased social interactions promote respect, empathy and self-esteem, while alleviating loneliness and isolation for employees who work in silos. Plus, a strong support network helps drives continued motivation and commitment, which strengthens employee pride, morale and productivity.

In summary, an age of increasing health care costs and poor lifestyle choices are hurting business profits and the economic function of our society, but these risk factors can be managed and mitigated by promoting workplace wellness.

Employee benefits:

  • Reduces stress
  • Improves well-being, self-image and self-esteem
  • Improves physical fitness
  • Decreases risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Weight loss
  • Improves health

Employer benefits:

  • Increases employee productivity
  • Lowers health care costs
  • Decreases rates of illness and injuries
  • Reduces employee absenteeism
  • Improves employee morale

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