Why Your Business Can't Afford to Ignore Wellness

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If your organization thinks workplace wellness is just a passing trend, think again. Investments in workplace wellness programs are paying huge dividends for employers. Plus, many organizations are finding that workplace wellness programs are a strategic priority when it comes to saving money, engaging employees, and creating a more productive workforce. Here are a few reasons why your organization can't afford to ignore workplace wellness.

Wellness programs reduce costs.

It's the most obvious benefit: wellness programs save your organization money on health insurance and reduce a number of other associated costs including use of sick time, workers' compensation, disability management, and absenteeism. Health benefits are arguably the second largest employee expense for organizations and one of the most volatile costs from year to year. Wellness programs are one of the best tools available to reduce health care costs over the long-term.

Smaller businesses are more affected by poor health.

Smaller organizations are more affected by poor employee health than larger organizations. They are less able to absorb additional health care costs, and extended absence or frequent use of sick days can significantly affect their business operations. Additionally, decreases in productivity or engagement (even by just one or a few employees) because of poor well-being can also affect smaller businesses more than larger organizations.

The demands of the workplace are increasing.

More and more is being demanded of employees. Longer hours, expanded work weeks, and higher standards mean that employees face increased stress and worse well-being at work. These risks can lead to poor physical and mental health, which in turn affect costs. Wellness programs can enhance employees' ability to function and perform well in spite of these demands and also help employees cope with the stresses of work.

Healthy employees are more engaged.

Beyond reduced costs, healthy employees tend to be more engaged. Studies find that employees who are engaged and interested in their work are more likely to report better overall well-being and healthier outcomes, such as improvements in cholesterol and blood pressure and lower stress, than their less engaged counterparts. They are also less likely to be absent from work, and more likely to be productive, energetic, and have higher performance.

Employees want to work for organizations that care about their well-being.

It's not uncommon for employees to cite that their organization's investment in their health and care for their well-being are key reasons that they stay at their employers. Employees want to work for organizations, leaders, and managers that care about their well-being and who provide appropriate levels of support and flexibility to lead healthy, balanced lives. ERC's employee engagement research has found significant relationships between whether employees believe that their organization cares about their well-being and their perceptions of leaders, supervisors, and the overall workplace.

Wellness programs are becoming a standard benefit.

With their increasingly popularity, wellness programs are becoming a standard part of an employer's benefits package. According to our surveys, the majority of local employers offer some wellness benefit to their employees, such as health screenings, wellness coaching, access to trainers and/or dieticians, on-site clinics, healthy food options, fitness/weight management programs, or health education seminars. Also, wellness perks can be an attractive benefit to prospective employees, and especially for candidates that care about being healthy. Several leading employers, such as our NorthCoast 99 winners (www.northcoast99.org), promote their wellness initiatives to attract talent.

Wellness programs change lives.

Beyond the cost and productivity benefits of wellness programs, one of the greatest gifts you can offer your employees is a better quality of life. There are countless success stories resulting from corporate wellness programs inclusive of employees that have overcome a chronic condition, lost significant amounts of weight, and reduced serious health risk factors. These programs aren't just saving money for businesses - they're improving lives. Wellness initiatives inspire and motivate employees to change their behavior and provide them the tools to better themselves.

The business case for wellness should be clear: lower costs, higher engagement, productive employees, and a healthier business. With these diverse positive benefits and the current volatile climate of health care, your organization truly can't afford to not invest in employees' wellness.

Katie Talarico, PHR is survey manager at ERC and a member of the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, World-at-Work, and the Cleveland Society for Human Resource Management.

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