Why Wellness Programs Are on The Rise & How to Start One

by | 27 Jun, 2017

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How far does your company’s wellness program go? Does it offer health insurance? How about dental? Vision?

Now, what about voluntary biometric screenings or on-site fitness centers? Are smoking cessation programs and outdoor stress-reduction sessions company mainstays, or is the main way your company relieves its stress by going outside several times a day to smoke?

Today, more businesses are adopting robust wellness programs, which are not only proving beneficial for employees who may want to trim their waistlines, but also at lowering corporate costs and increasing worker productivity. Employers looking into adopting wellness initiatives have many options from which to choose, as well as a host of benefits to gain.

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Wellness Programs Are Becoming Big at Businesses

Wellness programs and health incentive plans are on the rise in the U.S. Over two-thirds of employers are offering them as a part of their benefits packages. Despite such high-profile companies as Google providing employees with comparatively lavish perks like on-site beds, volleyball courts and medical treatment centers, great wellness programs need only accomplish the goals of raising employee health and satisfaction. For example, IBM’s highly acclaimed wellness program offers employees free fitness and nutrition consulting along with a small bonus for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The recent rise in corporate wellness initiatives is partly driven by government regulation and partly through a better understanding of its economic incentives.  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides subsidies to businesses that run corporate wellness programs for providing items such as gym memberships, health education seminars, and rewards for employees who meet certain health improvement benchmarks. Businesses can qualify for even more subsidies if they implement programs designed to help employees quit smoking.

But government benefits aren’t the only reason corporations should invest in the health and wellness of their staff. Businesses are increasingly finding that a healthy and energetic workforce is at the same time less expensive to maintain and more productive while on the job. Healthier companies have lower health care costs, and healthy workers take less time off for illnesses. One recent study estimated that businesses save 50 percent on every dollar they invest into their wellness programs; other studies calculate that figure to be as much as 500 percent.

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Starting a Wellness Program at Your Business

Modern employees expect at least some form of wellness initiative at their companies, be it an on-site gym, reimbursement for yoga lessons, or simply time to take walks built into their workday schedules. Likewise, many businesses have come to view wellness programs as a tool to enhance employee engagement and make a statement about the things they value.

Companies that want to implement a wellness program have many places they can start. For example:

    • Smoking cessation support.
    • Prevention campaigns for chronic conditions.
    • Health insurance premium discounts.
    • Providing healthy cafeteria food and snack options.
    • Conducting on-site fitness classes.
    • Gym membership reimbursement.
    • Employee health screenings and financial incentives. 
    • Free health consultations or training sessions.

Corporate wellness is now a multibillion-dollar industry. Employers who want to start offering programs have many outside service providers from which to choose. Before launching a new wellness plan, it’s a good idea for companies to survey their employees to gauge what interests them most. Employers who already have health programs can use the feedback to tweak initiatives and augment existing plans or start new ones.

Technological innovation can also help to drive corporate wellness. Many companies now provide individual fitness tracking devices for employees to measure such things as the number of steps taken in a given period of time, amount of time spent sitting or sleeping, and the number of heartbeats per day. Some companies even encourage their employees to join a social platform that tracks diet and exercise.

Healthy competition can foster company wellness while keeping exercise fun. Employees are more engaged in fitness competitions than ever before, and company softball teams remain a common activity for employees outside of work.

Employers have needed a reason to jump headlong into helping their employees stay healthy. Now thanks to new programs and better research, they’re finally getting it. 

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Tom DiSilva
Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design. . He is an active member of The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), Professional Association of Co-Employers (PACE), and The American Payroll Association (APA). He is deeply committed to giving back to the community both personally and through Navigate Cares, which provides support for several nonprofit organizations such as the USO, The Boys & Girls Club, and the 3Point Foundation.

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Disclaimer: this article does not represent expert advice and is provided for informational purposes. Please get in touch if you would like expert HR advice.