Benefits of Wellness Programs
Benefits of Wellness Programs
Keir Elias Torkkola
Western Governors University
Wellness programs have increasingly gained momentum since the turn of the century and as employers start to see the positives those programs have started to become a staple of most businesses today. Since most employers pay for their employees health insurance it makes a lot of sense for companies to start taking a bigger interest in their employees wellbeing. Implementing a wellness program to fit a specific work environment can increase productivity and reduce absenteeism if employees are engaged and participating in the program. It is no secret the obesity problem facing many americans today and data shows if employees invest enough time in their programs they can reduce and eliminate their own obesity problems. Lastly the cost of health care is an enormous expense facing every company who offer those benefits and one of the main reasons wellness programs started was purely financial. If a company can design the right wellness program and continually tweak and tinker it to the needs of their employees their return on investment will be well worth the initial time and money spent.
Measuring the costs of lost productivity and absenteeism can be hard to calculate but once an effective method has been established the results will be quite eye opening. Reliable studies have shown how unhealthy behaviors and illness can cost companies dearly, one such study conducted in 2002 found that at the Dow Chemical Company the cost of lost productivity due to health factors was just under 7% of their total labor costs. (Shultz,Chen, & Edington,2009) . This figure came from a survey conducted by their own employees so one can infer the actual percentage may be higher than what was reported. Many health problems effecting productivity can be countered by incorporating stress management into a wellness program. Those who may not handle stress too well will more likely miss work due to depression or some type of anxiety disorder, in the United Kingdom alone the entire workforce “loses thirty million working days each year because of illness or injury, costing employers a combined thirty-two billion euros.” (Bloxham,& Evans, 2013, p. 13) Comparing the size of the United Kingdom to the United States it is easy to assume the amount of money and days missed are far greater. Once a company can see how unhealthy behaviors effect productivity and absenteeism they then can begin to design a program to eliminate the problem.
Success of a program relies heavily on the amount of participation from employees and the popularity of wellness programs may never have come about if it was not something people wanted. A survey conducted of employees of a local government who had participated in a wellness program showed over 75% believed wellness programs encouraged them to work harder and about half of the survey group reported the programs would encourage them to stay in their current position. (Benavides, & David, 2010 ) Not only have programs proved to increase employees will to work but also helped reduce absenteeism through happier employees. The United States Postal Service (UPS) started their wellness programs almost 20 years ago and although momentum was slow at first eventually employees started to see the value in what was actually being offered to them. Instead of simply creating a program for their employees the company asked what they could do to improve on the corporate level and the desire for more health and safety information became clear.
Since starting the programs, UPS has seen improvements in productivity and reduction in absenteeism while reducing on the job injuries by 60%. Scott Stenson, a driver in Petaluma, gave up drinking coffee, quit smoking, eats less junk food and has displayed a lot of enthusiasm about his health. Another...
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