The value of a workplace wellness program
There are many benefits that arise from worksite wellness, from reducing absenteeism, health care and workers’ compensation costs to improving employee recruitment, health, morale and productivity. In fact, a University of Michigan study revealed health care costs for a high-risk worker are three times that of a low-risk employee. The American Institute of Preventive Medicine reports that 87.5 percent of health claim costs are due to lifestyle. Companies that implement wellness activities can save from $3.48 to $5.42 for every dollar spent and can reduce absences 30 percent."
Because most adults spend a majority of their waking hours at work, a sustainable working environment is critical. The work site, organizational culture and working environment are powerful influences on behavior. Wellness programs have been used as instruments to address weight reduction, reduced stress levels, improved physical fitness, health, and well-being. But did you know they are also linked to business sustainability programs improving the bottom line? Until recently, corporate wellness programs have been a "nice to have" program. However, new trends point to wellness programs as "must have" programs as success evaluations of these programs are shifting.
Traditional evaluations of wellness programs as part of employee engagement strategies have focused on ROI. Yet qualifying the ROI for wellness programs has been elusive. There are some notable metrics as mentioned by Elaine Cohen, author of the CSR for HR,
“It is estimated that employers spend $13 billion annually on the total cost of obesity. Approximately 9.1 percent of all health care costs in the United States are related to obesity and overweight. Workplace obesity prevention and control programs can be an effective way for employers to reduce obesity. They can produce a direct financial return on investment (ROI) by lowering health care costs, lowering absenteeism, and increasing employee productivity.”
However, because financial indicators of success can be difficult to ascertain, many experts in the field are arguing that VOI (value on investment) is the more comprehensive and inclusive metric because it can be self-defined by the company to include attributes that are important to their own business success. For instance, in addition to improvements in health care costs and reduction of healthcare claims, a VOI for a company might include recruitment and retention rates, measures of morale, quality-of-life indicators and absenteeism metrics. Worksite wellness and sustainability are linked:
● Enhanced recruitment and retention of healthy employees
● Reduced health care costs
● Decreased rates of illness and injuries
● Reduced employee absenteeism
● Improved employee relations and morale
● Increased productivity
As worksite wellness becomes more of the norm and less of the exception, so too is business sustainability. Providing employees with wellness programs not only provides access to improved health, but it also demonstrates corporate social responsibility. Sustainability embedded in the core operations of a business captures the benefits a wellness program aims to make and more. As with any successful program, leadership is critical as is participation and engagement. Unite wellness programs with corporate sustainability to engage your workforce.
Julie Urlaub is the founder and managing partner of Taiga Company, a sustainability social media consulting firm, where she aids clients to powerfully engage in sustainability-related issues and stakeholder communications in the social space.
Leveraging 15 years of business development and communications expertise in the energy, medical and IT industries, she now consults, blogs, tweets and advises clients on a variety of issues related to the intersection between environmental stewardship, sustainable business practices, and the bottom-line benefits of sustainability strategies.
Leading by example, with over 25,000 Twitter followers and a blog with global reach, she works with companies to maximize sustainability strategies and to communicate how their sustainability strategies are making a difference in their business and in our world. Not only does Julie walk the talk, she rides it, too, as an endurance mountain bike racer.
image: Mike Baird via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)