Today’s always-connected society means employees are no longer able to turn the computer off at 5 p.m. With the recent shift to remote work further blurring the line between work and home, our 24-7 work culture places a greater onus on employers to support and contribute to the health and well-being of their workers.
Workplace wellness programs are a popular tool to help people engage in their own health, aimed at improving employee health and productivity, and decreasing healthcare costs. But employers have become increasingly skeptical of their return on investment because, as reported in a 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, these programs do not create a significant effect on health care costs.
It’s time for organizations to take a closer look at the benefits of workplace wellness programs to better meet their employees’ needs.
To make the business case to invest more in employee health, it’s important to have a holistic view of wellness — going beyond physical fitness and even disease management, to address factors impacting individuals’ comprehensive health. By reviewing and revising their wellness programs, business leaders also might find that they can increase their financial return on investment by lowering health costs and improving health outcomes.
Six key factors make employer wellness programs more effective.
1. Go beyond benefits for physical health.
Employees’ wellness includes both physical and mental health. Depression and stress, in particular, have proved to be major sources of lost productivity — and these are of special concern in the midst of a global pandemic. Think beyond diet and exercise. Providing financial incentives to join fitness clubs or stocking your kitchen with healthy snacks isn’t enough — successful programs help participants find the support they need for their emotional well-being as well.
2. Provide one-stop support for complex, chronic conditions.
Another important component of wellness programs is the management of chronic conditions — and, a design that doesn’t separate a single condition from participants’ overall health. More than 83 million Americans are managing two or more chronic conditions that require frequent and recurring health care. A Rand study found that disease management drives a large part of the savings that employee wellness programs generate. Yet many disease management programs focus on a single condition — ignoring the interconnectedness of our health, and the large number of Americans who manage two or more chronic conditions.