What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?
Efforts to create healthy workplaces generally focus on safety. Programs that support employees’ choosing healthier behaviors — being more physically active or adopting a better diet, for example — are less common.
However, as indicated by a 2010 study published in the Harvard Business Review, such choices can have a significant effect on an employer’s health care costs. The study, “What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?” finds that a well-run employee wellness program can yield significant returns — as much as $6 in health care savings for every $1 invested. Other benefits can include reduced days lost to sickness, lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums and higher rates of employee retention.
The authors studied ten organizations in a number of industries to better understand the concrete benefits of employee wellness and the characteristics of the most effective programs. Findings include:
- A successful employee wellness program involves engagement by leadership on multiple levels and strong alignment with the corporation’s vision and identity.
- To ensure employees’ participation, the programs need to be of high quality, comprehensive, relevant and accessible.
- Programs thrive through sustained partnerships between internal and external stakeholders as well as strong internal promotional communication.
This research underscores the importance of employers to adopt a more proactive approach in encouraging and enabling employee wellness. In turn, companies can reap benefits such as lower health costs, greater worker productivity and improved morale.
Tags: employment, exercise, medicine, nutrition
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the Harvard Business Review study titled "What's the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?"
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Carrots, Sticks and Lower Premiums."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.