Expert Commentary

What’s the hard return on employee wellness programs?

2010 study published in the Harvard Business Review potential benefits of well-designed wellness programs to both companies and workers.

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

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