Corporate wellness programs have never been more popular: nearly 80 percent of employers have them, according to Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health.
However, CEOs and other executives — especially at small and mid-sized companies — still doubt whether these programs are a worthwhile investment.
Here are five reasons companies should consider introducing or augmenting wellness initiatives:
- Wellness programs save companies money.
Yes, wellness is an investment, and it’s usually impossible to fully determine its ROI because you have to trust that some of the conditions that employees can avoid by improving their health will be avoided through successful wellness initiatives.
Overall, healthy employees use fewer insurance dollars than their less-healthy counterparts.
- Healthy employees are more productive and take fewer sick days.
Unless you own a gym, chances are you don’t hire people based on how healthy they are. At most companies and in most jobs, healthy people aren’t necessarily more qualified or skilled than unhealthy people.
However, the healthy version of any of us is more productive than the unhealthy version.
An effective wellness program will help employees avoid health conditions that can be avoided by cleaner living and healthier activity. Initiatives that encourage employees to get up from their desks throughout the workday — the best way to negate the effects of prolonged sitting — will also allow employees to regain their focus and prevent burnout.
- Wellness programs improve culture and boost morale.
My recommendation for companies is to make part (or all) of their wellness programs team-based. Not only are people less likely to give up on activities when they have teammates depending on them, it’s also an opportunity for employees to strengthen their relationships with their colleagues.
I also recommend that CEOs and other company leadership be visibly involved with wellness initiatives. This sends a strong signal that wellness — and investing in employees’ health and wellbeing — is an important part of the company’s DNA.
- The impact of wellness programs often extends past employees and includes their families.
Wellness initiatives may take place primarily at the office, but the benefits don’t stop when the employee clocks out for the day.
Many of our clients say that because their employees continue to focus on eating better and getting more exercise outside of work, they end up leading by example and their spouses and children improve their health as well.
- America is unhealthy.
We’ve all read the news articles. Obesity is on the rise; nearly half of all Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic; our children are predicted to be the first generation to die at an earlier age then their parents.
While this is not strictly your (or any) company’s responsibility, we do have a health epidemic here in the U.S. and should be pulling together to do something about it. Given that a company is one of two beneficiaries of good individual health, embracing individual and family health not only helps your company but is also an investment in the civic bank of health.
Wellness programs require a leap of faith: the positive effects aren’t as obvious as they are for other programs. However, most executives would agree that increased productivity, better attendance and stronger company culture are all worth the investment.
Mike Tinney is a former video game company executive and the founder and CEO of Fitness Interactive Experience, a game-based corporate wellness company.