Employee wellness has been hyped as a panacea for many corporate ills. Companies have also started comprehensive health-promotion programs that peddle employees everything from yoga to hiking in attempts to nip their health problems in the bud. A focus on wellness in the workplace has been pursued with the aim of capping soaring healthcare costs. Thus, designing the company wellness program has become an integral feature of the corporate HR professional's agenda.
But do wellness programs really work? Are they just hype, or do they make business sense for companies?
Proponents of wellness programs argue that unhealthiness causes a company to lose time and money. Studies have revealed that many ailments result from the sedentary lifestyles that are so prevalent in modern corporate culture.
The most common health issues faced by companies include smoking, obesity, alcohol abuse, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. Poor diet and stress further exacerbate health problems. Debates may continue regarding the roots of these ailments, but invariably they result in fat medical bills!
More and more HR departments have been asked to design wellness programs and activities to ensure employees remain in good mental and physical condition. The objective is to improve productivity. A happy staff equals more money for the company.
Let's consider an obese employee's medical expenses. The employee's obesity, which may lead to problems such as diabetes and heart disease, will likely cost the company more than $5,000 per year. The company would not have to spend so much on a healthy employee. Studies have demonstrated that if employers help their workers lead healthier lives, it not only minimizes risk but also costs their companies less money. The result: everybody is happy!
Blue-chip companies like AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, and others have adopted smart strategies to maintain healthy workforces. Wellness programs such as "Total Life Concept," "Live for Life," and "Stay Alive and Well" are dedicated to improving the health of employees and to controlling company healthcare costs.
Such programs also send strong messages to employees that their companies care for them and their health. Additionally, wellness programs form bonds between employers and employees and among employees. Ergonomically designed, these programs encompass the entire workforce, uniting workers at all levels. Companies profit immensely from these factors, which work holistically to support overall growth.
However, like most HR programs, wellness programs have drawbacks. The most significant drawback is the lack of provisions for family members. However, these programs cannot be evaluated only in terms of improved employee health or company fiscal health. They also build morale, loyalty, efficiency, and team spirit. Wellness programs, studies have proven, continue to attract good people and help companies retain them.
Remember, your company does not necessarily need an extensive (and initially expensive) program. Begin small, begin at the top, and begin right. Involve everyone so that the benefits are enjoyed by everyone. Consider offering perks such as free weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs, gym memberships, counseling for emotional needs, vacations, and on-site health checkups.
If you manage your wellness program effectively, it will automatically weave its own way into the corporate culture at your company.