There’s a reason why employee wellness programs are so popular: they can have a profoundly positive impact on an individual, corporate, and community level.
Employees who have the tools to lead a healthy lifestyle can see a marked improvement in their physical and mental wellbeing. This type of change can be meaningful: about half of all American adults have a chronic health condition such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cardiovascular disease that could be improved with smart lifestyle choices such as eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, when people lead healthy lives, they feel more energetic, have a positive mindset, and feel physically strong and fit. In turn, this will build their sense of self-esteem. It can also lead to lifestyle changes within their circle of family and friends as they role model the positive outcomes of a health-focused way of life.
Healthier employees = happier employees. The CDC states that a worksite wellness program that prioritizes employee health can improve morale.
And with a healthy workforce, productivity increases. American employers lose $36.4 billion per year from employees missing work due to high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, and obesity.
Enhanced productivity stemming from worksite wellness programs can positively affect your company’s bottom line. One study found that companies with award-winning employee wellness efforts outperformed the stock market. Good health brings other cost savings, too. According to the CDC, preventable, chronic health conditions are a major contributor to the costs of health insurance premiums and medical claims filed by employees. For example, one study determined the following 10 health conditions were the top drivers of total medical, pharmacy, and productivity costs:
- Back/neck pain
- Chronic pain
- Sleeping problems
- High cholesterol
Finally, wellness programs can help your company’s employee recruitment and retention rates. Benefits are a major consideration for employees looking for a job, or deciding whether to move on from their current position, and worksite wellness programs are an attractive perk.
Employee wellness programs have gained in popularity in the wake of COVID-19. A survey of 816 large employers found that 45% of them were broadening their wellness program offerings in response to the pandemic. That’s because 63% of participants thought that COVID-19 will have a “moderate to large effect” on employee wellbeing, including mental/emotional health. More than 77% of these companies will expand access to virtual mental health services.
In fact, a September 2020 survey of American employees found that 58% of them suffered burnout during the coronavirus pandemic; a different poll reported that 53% of adults said their mental health had been negatively affected by stress related to COVID-19. By caring for their employees holistically—addressing their psychological as well as physical health—companies can help combat the loneliness and isolation that team members may be struggling with.
As we all move through this difficult time together, it’s crucial to consider how lowering health care costs and incorporating preventive health programs can benefit our society as a whole. Not only can preventive programs save lives in the long run, but they can also reduce health care costs for employees and employers. And when employees stay healthy on the job, they can continue making contributions to essential federal programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.