Why Wellness Matters

Posted on September 23, 2015 by Don MacPherson.

As healthcare costs continue to rise there has been a great deal of discussion in the media about wellness at the worksite. Wellness programs at work not only help lower healthcare costs, they have also been shown to improve productivity and positively influence the culture. They have gained traction too. Over 70% of companies offer some sort of wellness program.

From our research at Modern Survey, we know that employees who pursue a healthy lifestyle are more likely to be engaged in their work and engaged employees are more likely to be healthy. In fact, 22% of employees active in their organization’s wellness program are “fully engaged.” Those who are not active in their organization’s wellness program are “fully engaged” at a rate of only 11%. To learn more about wellness and its importance, I sat down with Jina Schaefer, founder of North Fourth Wellbeing, to discuss the trends in wellness at the worksite.

The way she sees it, employee wellness and employee engagement are related through one simple principle: happiness. “From over a decade of work in the wellness field, it’s become clear that before someone can truly get healthy, they need to start getting happier as well,” Schaefer explains. She says that it’s easier to exercise or choose a vegetable over a french fry if you’re in a good mood. We can all see examples of our mood dictating our choices in our own lives. Of course, the same is true for our employees.

If we are in a good mood, it is easier to let stress roll off our backs rather than to become preoccupied with it and spend time and energy complaining or worrying about it. Knowing the health complications that stress can cause is another example of how having more positive emotions can improve our health.

Schaefer explains that having a wellness program that focuses on helping employees become happier in addition to giving them an education about healthy living will not only entice employees to participate in the programs and the healthy habits, it will help them become more engaged in their work, lower stress levels, and boost creativity and productivity.

Within both areas of engagement and wellness there is much said about creating a culture that enables them to be possible. Schaefer says, “While culture is a vital piece in helping employees become healthier, happier, and more engaged there is another important piece: the personal responsibility on the part of the employee to become happier on their own.”

At Modern Survey, we know one of the top drivers of engagement is having employees feel like they have the opportunity to learn and grow. With the right programs and messaging in place, wellness programs that boost employee health and teach the skills to become happier can help employees fill that desire of learning and growing as an individual. Empowering employees to improve their lives by becoming happier and healthier is a win-win for the employees and the employers.

One of the most surprising aspects about wellness programs is how affordable they can be. Some wellness vendors believe that the more you spend, the more you get in return. However, Schaefer says, “Quality trumps quantity in this case. With intentional planning, employee interest surveys, and the right program marketing, a company can run an effective employee wellness program for $200-$500 per employee per year.”

Because the research and programs vary, so does the employer’s return on investment for wellness programs. The most common statistic in the industry for ROI is a three to one ratio meaning if you spend $1 on wellness the company will save $3 on healthcare costs.

That ROI statistic only covers healthcare cost and not the ripple effect of having healthier, happier employees: higher engagement, increased overall performance, less burnout, greater commitment to the organization, more job satisfaction, and less work missed.

If that isn’t enough, a wellness program can differentiate your organization in the recruiting process…especially among young people. According to a study Modern Survey conducted in March of this year, we found that Millennials are far more likely than older workers to be active in their wellness program. Over half of all Millennials say they are active in their organization’s wellness program. For Gen X employees, it is 46% and 40% for Baby Boomers.

Millennials are known to want more from where they work than just a place to clock in and out. They want to be able to grow and learn both personally and professionally, they want to be social and make a difference. With a well-crafted wellness initiative at the worksite, companies can use wellness to help employees grow and learn, meet new people, create a sense of community, and even make a bigger difference in their lives.

You can learn what to look for when evaluating potential wellness opportunities by listening to the “Why Wellness Matters” webinar Modern Survey hosted with Jina Schaefer on August 24th.

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