The Fruits of Corporate Wellness
We find that workplace wellness programs have emerged as a common employer-sponsored benefit that is now available at about 50 percent of U.S. companies. In spite of growing popularity among companies, the impact of corporate wellness are rarely evaluated
Over the last few decade, the epidemic of lifestyle diseases is soaring in the U.S. Frequent alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyle are some of the common causes attributable to the prevalence of chronic illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, heart conditions. These has perturbed corporate America as they lead to a waned quality of life, disability, and premature death. Moreover, this illnesses once associated with older age groups, has shifted towards the working age, adding up to the economic burden due to absenteeism, reduced performance while still at work (presenteeism), and illness-related productivity loss.
Out of concern about the impact of health related problems, today, more than 80% of American workers who work for organizations with 50 or more employees have access to a wellness program. Commonly referred to as corporate wellness programs or workplace wellness programs, they aim to prevent the onset of diseases, or to diagnose or treat them at an early stage. Early stage prevention of these illnesses addresses health-related behaviors and risk factors – for example, by encouraging an obese employee a diet of lower caloric food. Secondary stage prevention is aimed to improve disease control by providing medication adherence to avoid symptoms exacerbations.
A range of benefits are offered under the workplace wellness programs, from multi-component programs to benefits offered through a vendor. According to a RAND employer survey, more than 50% of employers in the U.S. offer wellness promotion programs. The survey noted that more than 80% of employers with an employee wellbeing program screen employees for their health risks, and use the results for wellness program planning and for directing employees to preventive intervention that address this risks.
In addition to the preventive intervention that employers provide, they also offer health promotion activities (86%), such as health food options, vaccinations, and other benefits, such as Employee Assistance Plans as well as on-site medical check-ups (61%). Companies have instituted workplace wellness programs as a way to reduce healthcare costs. Even so, numerous studies show that nurturing employee health and wellness has a significant impact on productivity, which, directly impacts company profitability. A recent paper by Harvard researchers who reviewed 36 studies of corporate wellness programs, noted that for every dollar spent on wellness programs, the company medical costs fell about $3.27. The study also found that absenteeism - related costs fell about $2.73 leading to greater productivity.