How Employee Wellness Can Affect the Bottom Line

Today, healthcare costs continue to skyrocket, so it is not surprising that wellness is a topic of discussion at home, in our schools, at all levels of government, and in the workplace.  The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward a more successful existence.”  Therefore, workplace wellness programs exist to encourage and assist employees in taking steps to be well. Workplace wellness programs are employer-sponsored or employer–sanctioned activities aimed at helping employees stay healthy, avoid preventable illnesses, and replace bad health habits with good ones.  Below are some programs that organizations have offered to their employees:

  • Health risk assessments.
  • Smoking cessation classes
  • Reimbursement/Discount of gym memberships.
  • Flu vaccinations.
  • Healthy food options in workplace cafeterias.

Not all wellness programs need to be costly to the employer.  Basically, making employees aware of healthier habits can improve their overall well being.  Organizations have implemented some of the below low cost ideas:

  • Promote lunchtime walks
  • Post signs in the stairwell to remind employees to walk up the stairs.
  • E-mail or post on the intranet, health tips for employees
  • Create and maintain a Wellness bulletin board

Wellness is not just about weight and cholesterol anymore.  It encompasses such areas as work/life balance, stress, depression, safety, air quality, etc.  Research has shown that the health status of employees directly influences their work behavior, attendance and performance.  Therefore, improving employee well-being may result in a more productive workforce.  As a risk management strategy, many companies use a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) to measure employee health.  The results from this assessment can then be used to evaluate where the high risk/high cost health areas of your workforce fall.  Interesting enough, certain life style and behavior choices, which are preventable, account for a chunk of the increasing healthcare cost to employers. 

Changes in lifestyle and behavior involving exercise, stress, and tobacco use could save employers a lot, according to a study of more than 46,000 individuals conducted by Health Enhancement Research Organization. This group collected data on the exercise habits, alcohol and tobacco use, nutrition, weight, cholesterol, stress levels, depression, blood sugar, and blood pressure of the participants–all risk factors. About 25 percent of the study participants’ total annual health care expenditures ($80 million) were attributable to these 10 health risks. But these are risks that can be modified through lifestyle or behavior changes, and in some cases through medication.

The bottom line is, organizations can change their health care plan options from month to month, and maybe even nibble around the edges of healthcare costs.  But without actually changing health, employers don’t really stand a chance of lowering costs. However, if you begin to educate your employees about the importance of eating right, and exercise, and not smoking, all the things we probably know to some degree but may not be fully implementing in our lives, then you might have a chance to control the costs.

There has been research done which shows evidence that an effective workplace wellness program will result in a healthy return – both in terms of employee productivity and reduced healthcare costs.  Consider employee health all year long. Too often employers worry about the costs of health care insurance when it’s time for renewal, but may not spend enough time the rest of the year considering their employees’ health and how it affects their bottom line. Employers may need to consider this if they want to embrace programs that make sense and save money.

Click here to download our White Paper titled, Lower Healthcare Costs with Health Risk Assessments.

 

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