Employers Say Wellness Programs Work

Are you worried about the rising cost of health insurance for yourself and your employees?

You’re probably not alone, and concerns about cost may be one reason why nearly all (87 percent) of business executives nationwide believe workplace wellness programs are beneficial for their companies.

The study The State of Workplace Wellness in America, conducted by the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, polled business leaders nationwide and in six states to find out what they thought of workplace wellness programs and what challenges they faced in implementing them.

Three-fourths of respondents said community-based networks of business leaders would be useful resources to learn about workplace wellness initiatives and share information and ideas. Said Tom Mason, president of the organization, in announcing the results:

“Employers are realizing that wellness initiatives represent a solid business strategy with myriad benefits.”

What are the benefits of a wellness program?

Some 84 percent say such programs led to lower healthcare costs. Ninety-six percent say they help employees enjoy healthier lifestyles, 84 percent say they boost productivity, 78 percent say they lower absenteeism rates and 58 percent say they reduce workers’ compensation claims.

More than half (55 percent) of employers in the survey already have workplace wellness programs in place. While improving employee health is the top goal (cited by 92 percent), reducing healthcare costs was the second most important goal (cited by 85 percent). The major health issues employers say their employees are struggling with are obesity (5 percent), stress (51 percent) and lack of exercise (51 percent).

Speaking of goals, even employers who had programs in place were struggling to measure ROI from the programs, with just 42 percent actually doing so.

Among those who hadn’t implemented worksite wellness programs, cost (65 percent), concerns about getting enough participants (59 percent), and lack of time (54 percent) were the main reasons for not doing so.

Are you without a wellness plan?

I bet the reasons for not doing so cited above ring pretty true. Here are steps you can take to get past these obstacles and get a wellness initiative going:

Lead the Way

As the business owner, you need to commit to the importance of wellness in the workplace. Model the behavior you want to see by taking breaks, working out and eating healthy foods and snacks. A “do as I say, not as I do” approach won’t work for wellness.

Designate a Leader

Put someone at your company in charge of leading the wellness plan implementation. Give them a budget and time frame to work with, and have them find out what employees are interested in, what your insurance offers and what’s realistic.

Make it Relevant

The best wellness programs are customized to fit your company culture and employees’ needs. If your company is staffed by 20-something beach Frisbee players, gym memberships or standing desks might be in order. If most of your team are 40-something moms, stress and weight loss might be their big issues.

Involve Your Insurance Company

Many health insurance plans now offer a wellness program or reduced rates on wellness options such as massage, yoga classes, gym memberships and more. Contact your insurance provider to see what’s available to you. Even having someone come out to talk to your team about ways to improve wellness is a good way to encourage it

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.