In the past few years businesses have seen drastic cost increases for health insurance coverage for their employees. To help offset these costs, employers have started investigating the benefits of wellness programs.
What is Included in Employer Wellness Programs?
The elements of Wellness Programs vary for each employer, but the theme is to encourage employees to adopt healthy lifestyles. In some cases staff is rewarded for losing weight or quitting smoking. Rewards can be cash as well as merchandise or paid time-off. Employers help staff reach these goals by providing in-house gyms and offering nutrition classes or smoking cessation programs. Some businesses’ Wellness Programs also offer on-site screenings for blood pressure or Body Mass Index (BMI). Based on the employees screening results they are counseled as to how to adjust their lifestyle to improve those readings. To help promote healthy eating, organizations have changed their vending machine and cafeteria offerings to healthier food options. The program elements are all geared to improve the employees’ health by helping them lose weight, quit smoking, lower their BMI score and improve their blood pressure.
Why Do Employers Sponsor These Programs?
Though the employees receive the benefits of the wellness programs, the theory is that the programs will subsequently reduce healthcare costs for the employer. By improving their employees’ health, the employer could potentially see increased productivity, decreased absenteeism due to illness and injury and experience a drop in insurance claims. Some companies measure their return on investment by analyzing how much they have spent on the program versus the positive results they have seen. New research published by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) showed a significant number of employers showing savings of $3 or more for every dollar spent. However, according to Harvard School of Public Health, the cost-effectiveness of workplace wellness programs varies widely and it may take two to three years for an employer to see returns on its wellness program investments.