Today’s business environment is becoming more like an all-inclusive resort and less like a place you go just to get work done. Yoga rooms, spa water, fresh fruits, protein bars, private gyms, and even massages are becoming the workplace norm. While this sounds great from an employee’s perspective, management has to be asking the question: “Is this all money well spent?”
Past generations might scoff, but modern research suggests a different answer. Unless your business is run entirely by robots, your employees are your most important asset. Just as you invest capital in maintaining and upgrading your equipment and machinery, a similar approach is necessary to keep your workforce happy and productive. However, your employees need different care than your hardware, and research suggests that wellness programs may provide the treatment they need.
A number of studies in recent years support the wellness trend, enough so that the only question you’ll be asking by the end of this article is when, not if, you’ll launch your own corporate wellness program. That’s a bold claim, we know, but the numbers don’t lie.
1. Wellness programs can increase productivity
A survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found 66 percent of employers offering wellness programs reported increased productivity. Another study suggested that employee participation in wellness programs improved productivity equivalent to an extra full day of work each month.
Why would additions such as green smoothies and yoga classes during work hours increase business productivity? Simply because healthier, happier employees do better work. So, if your motivational speeches aren’t helping your employees become more productive, perhaps a morning workout and zen room will.
2. Improved wellbeing can lead to decreased absenteeism
Absenteeism annually costs nearly $4,000 per hourly worker and $3,000 per salaried employee. Researchers conducted a survey to find out exactly why employees were absent for work and found minor illness and stress to be the most common issues. According to the American Institute of Stress, companies lose $300 billion a year due to missed work caused by high-stress levels—that’s a lot of money.
Regular exercise, healthy eating, and massages sound like good solutions to these common absentee ailments, which makes it no surprise that the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plan’s study found that half of the employers offering wellness programs saw a decrease in absenteeism.
3. Employees appreciate wellness programs
The recent ”Wellness Check Up Survey” from UnitedHealthcare found more than half of employees with access to workplace wellness programs believe the programs positively impact their health. An overwhelming majority (73 percent) of employees without access to wellness programs wanted them, with 43 percent being “very interested.” And this isn’t some millennial fad, either—the group desiring wellness programs the most appears to be Baby Boomers, the people between 54 and 72 years old.
In 2018, a Robert Half company survey found that 66 percent of companies had broadened their health and wellness options in the past five years. Employees notice the trend, and they don’t want to be left out. As a result, wellness programs not only benefit current employees, but they’re also an important recruiting tool. Experts analyzed a number of surveys and found that 59 percent of employees think employers should strive to enhance the health of their workers. In this era of employment, employees want to work for businesses that invest in their well-being.
4. Wellness programs can generate health care savings
While it’s not guaranteed that a wellness program will create big savings at your company, many companies have done this successfully. According to a study by RAND, the average overall ROI for an employee wellness program is $1.50, meaning a return of $1.50 for every dollar that the employer invested in the program.
But most companies don’t see the cost savings immediately—they’re more of a long-term investment. Looking at the RAND study, this insight can be attributed to the fact that the employers’ wellness program had two components: a lifestyle management program and a disease management program. When the ROI was broken down by these two individual components, they found the ROI was $3.80 for disease management but only $0.50 for lifestyle management. According to this research, If employers are looking for a healthy ROI on their wellness programs, they should target employees who already have chronic diseases.
5. Focusing on wellness can improve recruitment efforts
Employees want to find a job where their employers offer to help in meeting their health and wellness goals. New research from staffing firm OfficeTeam found that 73 percent of professionals surveyed said a company’s health and wellness offerings influenced their decision to work there. Employees weighted incentives that rewarded healthy behavior (26 percent) and fitness facilities or programs (23 percent) the highest.
It’s important to remember that your wellness program can’t replace the other major benefits your employees expect: vacation time, flexible hours, health insurance, remote options, for example. You can’t fool employees into thinking healthy snacks and a gym membership can substitute for work-life balance or expensive insurance premiums, so make sure your wellness programs are just a piece of the bigger benefits pie.
By prioritizing the health and well-being of your employees, you’ll be able to boost productivity, mold your culture, and save money in the long run. All of this concrete evidence supports businesses incorporating wellness programs into their comprehensive benefits plan, but these programs come in all shapes and sizes—there’s no one way to do it at every company. The overall effectiveness of your program will depend on finding the right wellness benefits for your employees and company culture, and there’s no better time to start investing in your employees.