Corporate Wellness Programs Show That Healthy Employees Equal A Healthy Company

March 7, 2013  |  

It makes sense. If your employees are in good health, then corporate health care costs go down. According to a new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the  official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), workplace health promotion programs have the potential to reduce average worker health costs by 18 percent — and even more for older workers,

But wellness programs only succeed if  the employees participate, says elite personal trainer Michael Levy, president of Online Rewards, who has created wellness and behavior change programs for clients including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Lend Lease, State Farm, and a number of public agencies. Wellness programs encourage healthy living.

According to Levy, 79 percent of large U.S. companies now offer wellness programs. “Fidelity Investments released February 27 the results of new survey research showing that U.S. employers have doubled their spending on wellness incentives in the last four years. They plan to spend an average of $521 per employee on wellness-based incentives,” Levy tells us.

But there are things businesses—including small businesses—can do to increase participation. “With the right incentives, participation in health reimbursement arrangements and biometric screenings can be as high as 80 percent,” explains Levy. “Gift cards, travel vouchers, electronics and other prizes can be more powerful motivators than a premium contribution notation on a pay stub.”

“Women have a much higher propensity than men to participate in activities associated with employee incentive and recognition programs, in some cases a 60-40 ratio,” Levy added.

Some programs work better than others. “To achieve the best results, programs must feature three key components,” Levy explained to us. “First and foremost, they must be incentive-based. Second, the programs must be based on achievable, frequently reached objectives, accompanied by frequently delivered rewards. Third, the programs must include an experiential web site, an online component that enables the employer to articulate goals, keep people engaged and track progress.”

According to Levy, the best way to entice employee participation is by offering fun and tangible. “Rewards should be distributed on a monthly, not an annual basis. Wellness programs encourage healthy living on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. It’s not an annual strategy,” Levy points out. “The incentive program website enables employees to celebrate success. It also facilitates the [mechanics] of healthy living objectives. Together, these elements foster greater engagement and lead to the ultimate goal — positively changing behavior.”

According to the ACOEM study,total medical care expenses per person for all working age adults would be reduced by about $650, or approximately 18 percent. The possible savings increased with age: up to 28 percent for older working adults and retirees. And of course, healthy living is its own reward. Corporate wellness programs are a win-win for everyone.

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