While the cost of health care coverage is often the top concern of your business customers, there are still a large proportion of employers who are not utilizing some basic wellness strategies that may make a significant difference in creating a healthier workforce. A healthier workforce, to the mutual benefit of all stakeholders, is likely to incur fewer medical and disability costs and remain most productive, yet wellness programs are an area typically underutilized by employers.
While the number of employers offering wellness programs is growing – according to MetLife’s 8th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, 37% of employers now offer a wellness program, up from 27% in 2005 – this means that nearly two-thirds of employers still do not have a wellness program in place. Smaller employers (those with fewer than 500 employees) are about one-third as likely to offer a wellness program than larger employers. If a monetary investment is the issue, there are several nominal costing tactics that can be taken to implement effective wellness programs.
Wellness Programs on a Shoestring
It does not take a big budget to implement a wellness program that can provide notable results. Employers of all sizes without much money to invest in wellness programs can still provide opportunities to encourage employees to take responsibility for their health – for a relatively low dollar commitment. Here are some simple suggestions:
Provide Access to Discounts. Many fitness clubs and gyms offer group discounts to employees. Employers can offer employees the opportunity to reduce stress, increase their energy and achieve weight-loss and overall fitness goals through discounted gym memberships.
Help Employees Control Weight. Like gym memberships, many weight-loss programs offer group discounts. Employees who strive to lose weight together may actually lose more weight than dieting on their own. Controlling weight can positively impact other costly conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Encourage Healthy Behaviors. One suggestion is to offer smoking cessation assistance at low or no cost or even simply changing the selections in vending machines or the cafeteria to healthier choices.
The Business Value of Wellness Programs
The success rates reported by employees regarding modifying their behavior as a result of participating in certain wellness programs are noteworthy. For example, according to the MetLife study, approximately nine out of ten people who participate in wellness programs say they have had success in losing weight and getting regular checkups. More than 80% of individuals say that they have increased their level of exercise, improved their diet and nutrition, or managed blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and stress. All of these things can obviously favorably impact not only an employees’ health and disability-related risks but also help control an employer’s costs in these areas.