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Corporate Wellness Programs: Top 6 reasons for the rising importance

corporate wellness programs top six reasons for rising importance

Wellness simply means, "A state of being in good health, especially as an actively pursued goal". Any organized activity designed to improve health, which, when incorporated into the lifestyle of a person, leads to thriving instead of surviving, is a wellness program.

At the workplace, wellness determines how invested the workforce is in the organization in companies future. The motive of the wellness programs is to build happier, healthier and more productive employees. An ASSOCHAM survey shows that 43% of Indian employees suffer from depression and 23% from obesity and other ailments. Corporate Wellness Programs aim to support and improve employees’ health and aim to cater to the employee’s emotional, physical, mental and financial wellness.

Wellness programs include a wide range of activities like health screenings, preventive care and fitness programs. Lifestyle-related diseases account for most premature deaths, morbidity, and healthcare costs, and workplace wellness programs can help contain this epidemic and improve employee health across industries.

Wellness programs and productivity

The efficiency with which a particular task is done by a person is productivity. Productivity is not the same as getting more things done. It is, in fact, the ability to generate, create or enhance the work or task at hand. It is crucial for workplace morale and workplace culture and is the basis for a successful organization. Happy employees work harder and more efficiently, thus improving productivity hence the role of wellness programs.

Wellness programs are mutually beneficial to both the employee and the employer, and it has been observed that well-organized programs which follow effective behaviour change models bring in the best results. Higher productivity and performance have been reported by 84% of employers in a 2019 study on employee wellness. Statistics by employee benefits health enhancement research organization reports an improvement of around 60% improvement in productivity and performance.

Wellness programs offered at the workplace are more often a combination of activities to screen and identify risk factors and interventions aimed at reducing risk and promoting a healthy lifestyle. These may include

  • Stress management education
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Exercise programs
  • Weight loss competitions
  • Wellness assessments
  • Assistance programs
  • Healthy lunch and snacks.
  • Gym membership

A study titled "Percentage of Employers in the U.S. that offered select Wellness Programs and Events as of 2020" found that 52% of U.S.-based companies offer employee wellness programs. As of 2018, health promotion was integrated into company culture by 37% of employers. Among the programs, 51% of the employers offered health screening, 44% health education, 39% with links to health and wellness-related employee service, supportive physical and social environment for health improvement by 46% of the employers.

The real relationship between wellness programs and productivity

Wellness programs improve productivity either directly or indirectly by:

Improving employee morale

The success of a company is significantly influenced by employee morale and happiness. Wellness initiatives at the workplace create a feeling of being valued and appreciated. Employees feel more supported. Employee programs become a source of new learning, which helps break the monotony and give new routines, dimensions and perspectives, which will eventually generate enthusiasm and improve morale.

Improving employee engagement

Activities like fitness challenges and walking groups encourage interactions among employees. Beyond the work rapport, doing similar activities and sharing experiences enhances communication which has an effective role in getting things done at work. It has a role in improving the efficiency of working together in a team. Connectivity improves not only between the employees but also with the organization they are working for.

Stress reduction

In everyday life, the effects of stress are felt both physically and mentally. The stress of deadlines, to an extent, improves productivity when paired with efficient stress management methods, but beyond a certain point, it takes a toll on health as well as productivity. Wellness programs aim to reduce stress by educating and equipping the workforce with efficient stress management methods. The American Psychological Associations' 2021 work and well-being survey has shown that 37% of the respondents reported that providing mental health resources would decrease stress and improve their work environment. When these programs are part of work, one need not burden themselves with how to figure out about taking time for activities, and it helps improve work and personal life balance.

Reducing health risks

Through effective screening programs, early identification of risk factors can be done which can reduce many chronic conditions and lifestyle diseases. With the programs around, spending time on maintaining and improving health does not become a luxury. It helps employees to learn and adapt healthy behaviours. Integrating wellness programs makes the implementation of healthy choices like eating healthy and exercising easy.

In a study conducted at a warehouse retail company in the U.S.A., it was observed that the employees exposed to workplace wellness programs had high rates of self-reported positive health behaviours than those who were not exposed to such programs.

Improving attendance

A healthy employee with good health and morale is more motivated to come to work and perform their best. Enhancing the physical and mental health of the employees through these programs leads to less absenteeism and thus improves productivity. A study reported a reduction of 14-19% in absenteeism with wellness programs in place.

Improving retention and recruitment of employees

Organizations which offer wellness programs and have health offerings are more likely to be chosen by an employee and improved chances of being referred to others.  It also has a role in influencing the loyalty of the employee towards the employer. Research has shown that 89% of workers are more likely to recommend their organizations as a “Good Place to Work” if they support well-being initiatives.

Reducing health care costs

Incorporating wellness programs - both disease management and preventive health approaches - reduces the healthcare costs associated with disease and illness. 1200 “fit-friendly” companies have been identified by the American Heart Association which encourage healthy behaviours, thus reducing the usage of health care benefits and health care costs. In 2019, a reduction in healthcare costs has been reported by 72% of employers who had workplace wellness programs.

How to assess the success of a wellness program 

Considering the potential benefits of the wellness programs, these are to be designed comprehensively and monitored periodically to bring better results. The success of a wellness program can be assessed by

  • The extent of utilization by the employees
  • Percentage of reduction in overall healthcare costs
  • Feedback from the employees and requests for additional programs
  • Likelihood of the employees recommending the program
  • Percentage reduction in sick days and absentees.

 

In closing

Wellness programs at the workplace increase productivity and offer to improve the overall well-being of the employee. There are still gaps in the conception and implementation of wellness programs and is largely dependent on the type of wellness programs, awareness of the employees, and beliefs regarding the usefulness of programs. Measures by organizations to integrate wellness programs and tailor them according to the needs of the employees will result in better utilization of the programs leading to healthier and happier employees.

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