CORPORATE WELLNESS – WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

25 November 2020, Wednesday

There are many companies offering wellness programs but a corporate wellness program is not about beauty treatments, food demonstrations, massages etc.

Corporate wellness programs, when done correctly, give employees incentives, tools, social support, privacy, and strategies to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours.

According to Dr Aldana, CEO of WellSteps, worksites, both private and public, are the chronic disease prevention centers of the United States.

South Africa is not following suite. Unfortunately, due to South Africa’s economy, private and public worksites feel that spending money on a corporate wellness program is a waste of money or something that they can’t afford.

Worksites should be doing more to prevent and even reverse chronic diseases than any other group. Hospitals are good at early detection and treating disease, but they don’t do much in the way of disease prevention. Worksite wellness programs have a great reach and impact to improve the health of adults.

It’s understandable that worksites don’t really want to be responsible for disease prevention.  They would prefer to make and sell products, provide services, deliver the goods and services that they are designed to produce. However, without a healthy workforce, you cannot achieve the former.

The 7 most important reason to have ta corporate wellness program:Wellness Programs improve employee health behaviourWellness Programs improve employee health behaviour

  1. Wellness Programs improve employee health behaviour

Behaviour change is the core of every good wellness program. People change their behaviour with the right skills, education, motivation and social support. Therefore, wellness programs assist people to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of having a wellness program.

Healthy behaviours lead to lower health risks, and lower health risks lead to less chronic disease.  With less chronic disease employees have fewer health care costs.  It looks like this:

Not every wellness program is able to show positive results. Well organised programs that follow effective behaviour change models have the best results.

It’s easy though to have healthy behaviours for a few weeks. But, maintaining healthy behaviours for years is the key. When you stop, you lose the benefits!

Comprehensive wellness programs that are customised to your staffs needs, will result in healthier behaviours. Eventually, they will change their eating habits, exercise more, smoke less or quit, manage their stress better. Wellness programs can improve stress management within the organisation as well as alleviate depression, depression symptoms and improve life satisfaction.

2. Wellness Programs Reduce Elevated Health Risks

The foundation of any good wellness program must be focused on helping employees adopt healthy behaviours. High blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and high blood pressure are almost all caused by unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity. Eating and exercising are behaviours.

Reductions in elevated health risks are important. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that for every 1% drop in total cholesterol, the risk of having a heart attack dropped by 2 to 3%. For every one point drop in elevated diastolic blood pressure, there is another 2 to 3% drop in heart disease risk.

The foundation of good health is low health risks. Wellness programs are a great way to help employees and their spouses avoid elevated health risks.

However, almost all wellness programs have one weakness. That is, it’s difficult to nearly impossible to get large groups of employees to reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity is caused by a variety of cultural factors and helping employees to lose weight or change their eating habits has proven to be extremely difficult.

Wellness programs are very effective at reducing elevated health risks like blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol. But they are not very effective at helping all types people to lose weight.

3. Wellness Programs Reduce Health Care Costs

The ability of a wellness program to reduce healthcare costs depends upon how effective the program really is. Having an occasional lunch and learn about nutrition or just doing a biometric screening will not be enough to move the healthcare cost needle.

Comprehensive worksite wellness programs that improve employee behaviours will see a bending of the healthcare cost trend. Most often they will discover that the savings from program participation will be greater than the actual cost of the program.

4. Wellness Programs Improve Productivity

Physically being at work but not working is the definition of poor employee productivity. Presenteeism due to poor employee health is estimated to cost approximately 2 – 3 times more than direct health care expenses.

While the estimated cost of presenteeism dwarfs the cost of health care, it does not receive the same level of scrutiny among employers preoccupied with controlling the direct costs of poor employee health.

There are many reasons why employees have low productivity. They may not know how to use the equipment, may be distracted by other employees, may not know what they are doing, may be tired, or they might be on Facebook. One of the main causes of presenteeism is poor health.

In a recent study, smokers were 28% more likely to have high presenteeism than non-smokers. Employees with an unhealthy diet were 66% more likely to have high presenteeism than those who regularly ate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Employees who didn’t exercise very much were 50% more likely to have high presenteeism than employees who were regular exercisers. These findings demonstrate that poor health behaviours are strongly associated with high levels of presenteeism.

In short, unhealthy individual lifestyle choices may result in substantially higher levels of lost productive work time.

Poor health behaviours eventually lead to elevated health risks and chronic diseases.

Looking at this graph, you can see that employees who suffer from neck/back pain are 79% more likely to have high presenteeism than employees who do not have neck/back pain.

Wellness programs that focus on helping employees have good health behaviours will eventually have an impact on productivity.

5. Wellness Programs Can Decrease Absenteeism

Worksites with comprehensive wellness programs can experience reduced absenteeism for a variety of reasons:

  • Employees with good health behaviours have lower absenteeism
  • Employees who can control their stress have lower absenteeism
  • Employees with healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose have lower  absenteeism
  • Employees who are not overweight or obese have
    lower absenteeism

Any wellness program that can reduce absenteeism will experience cost savings

Wellness programs have the ability to improve employee health, which can have impact whether or not individuals are absent from work. But, another reason why wellness programs can have such a large impact on absenteeism is that employees who have high morale are significantly less likely to be absent from work.

6. Wellness Programs Can Help Improve Employee Recruitment & Retention

Comprehensive wellness programs do have a strong impact on retention.  Rich benefits also have a powerful influence on retention, but a good wellness program can help keep employees loyal.

Personnel is the most important asset in every organization. When an employer offers a wellness program to its employees the company is saying, “We think you are an important part of this organization and we want you to be healthy, happy, and employed here for a long time”.  By offering employees a wellness program, you are showing them that you care about them.

You are letting them know, you want to do everything you can to keep them in good health and optimal performance. Employees know when they are appreciated. They know when they feel welcome and valued as important parts of the organization.  That knowledge can go a long way toward convincing employees to stick around: they can go find another job somewhere, but will they get treated and valued the same way?

7. Wellness Programs Build and Help Sustain High Employee Morale

LIVON’s wellness solutions has a performance guarantee. After three years we guarantee that your wellness program will have a positive return on investment. The secret is that after three years almost nobody cares about the ROI.

That may have been a good reason to start a wellness program, but after employees start to engage, communicate with each other, feel valued and appreciated, the reasons for doing a wellness program change. After three years we have found that our clients like to do wellness because they like the way it has changed their worksite culture.

Employees are obviously healthier but more importantly they are happier.  Experience with our clients show they that have migrated away from the ROI of wellness and have moved towards the value on investment (VOI) of wellness.

By offering your employees a wellness program you are telling them that you respect them, you trust them, and that you want to help them be successful in life. Employees have high employee morale when they are allowed to be creative,  solve problems, feel safe and appreciated, develop self-esteem, and achieve personal goals and aspirations. Employees are happy when they have a sense of control over their lives and their health.

If you think about it, your employees don’t care about your healthcare cost problem, they care about their own happiness. Your employees don’t share your concerns about productivity or absenteeism. They care about having a fulfilling, enjoyable job.

Your wellness program helps employees achieve all of their needs, both physical, social, and emotional. When it is all said and done, your employees want to feel loved and appreciated, and when they do, really good things happen at work.

Productivity goes up, customer service is outstanding, problems get solved, and people get creative. They like coming to work, they appreciate their employer, they work better with others, and they have high employee morale.

What is the financial value of having employees with high morale?

 It’s probably impossible to make this calculation but reverse the question and ask it again. What does it cost your company when you have employees with poor morale? Complaints will go up, the quality of your product or service will suffer, and problems will multiply because poor employee morale can be contagious. Poor employee morale can be a company killer.

So What?

A comprehensive wellness program is going to improve employee health and improve your organization’s bottom line. It is not going to make all your problems go away, but it is going to help you create a worksite culture of health. It will boost and maintain employee morale. With an effective wellness program you will improve the lives of your employees and help drive the success of your organization.