Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Are Wellness Benefits Worth the Investment?

Interest in wellness benefits has surged in recent years. The Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey found that 46% of small employers and a whopping 83% of larger organizations offer some form of wellness programs. These programs generally include the following areas: 
  • smoking cessation, 
  • weight management, and 
  • behavioral or lifestyle coaching
In this issue of Astronology® we look into wellness benefits to determine if they really are worth including in your employee total rewards package.

Traditionally speaking, when it came to employee health, the employer’s main concern was making decisions around a healthcare package that could reasonably meet the needs of its employees. It was commonly felt that health coverage was the best way for an organization to demonstrate the care it had for its employees. However, steadily, it has been noted that although Americans are living longer due to medical advances…the quality of life has gone down, due to chronic disease and preventable illness. As a result, these illnesses also take a toll on an organization’s productivity, as employees have to take days off for doctor visits, and possibly request lighter workloads due to illness.

To combat this drain on productivity, the interest in wellness has grown. While many people may be self-motivated to improve their wellness on their own, some individuals may have challenges in doing so. Those challenges can include
  • lack of accessibility,
  • lack of knowledge, and/or
  • lack of time to fully commit to living healthier lives
To help, some organizations have created programs to make wellness easier. Some noted positive results after offering wellness benefits to employees have included the following:
A Harvard Business Review online article mentioned that there also are some financial benefits to consider with respect to wellness. The article mentioned a study conducted by Richard Milani and Carl Lavie, which noted a $6 health care saving for every $1 invested in health intervention. Talk about positive ROI! Another example included a Cancer Center creating a workers’ compensation and injury care unit. Within six years the unit saw an 80% decline in missed work days and a decrease in modified duty days by 64%. In addition, the article pointed out that employees that participate in these benefits programs also are more likely to stay with the organization, rather than seek employment elsewhere.

How can an organization get started in creating a feasible yet attractive wellness program in which employees would like to participate? The SHRM website has a very helpful and in-depth article on Designing and Managing Wellness Programs for starters. In addition, consider these examples of programs started by two prominent healthcare-focused organizations:
  • Aetna: Offered Mindfulness at Work and Viniyoga Stress Reduction to employees to help lower the risk of mental and physical health deterioration. Mindfulness at Work reduced stress for its participants by 36%, and Viniyoga reduced stress for employees by 33%.
  •  Mayo Clinic: Besides offering on-site fitness facilities, Mayo Clinic also encourages work-life balance through discounts on travel and vacation. Backup daycare and bringing sick children to work, to be cared for by skilled staff nurses, also are helpful offerings.
Does your organization offer some form of wellness benefits? What were the deciding factors in assembling the offerings? We’d like to hear your thoughts!

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