Health problems are a growing concern for many Americans. Issues like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes have become alarmingly commonplace. This has spurred many companies to offer an employee wellness program. But does this make sense for your business?
Studies have found that most companies experience a favorable return on their investment. According to Health Affairs, “Medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.” So in the long run, an employee wellness program should be profitable with a positive ROI.
In terms of productivity, you can expect it to increase by promoting health and wellness among your employees. The CDC reports, “Productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion or $1,685 per worker annually.” When employees have perks like health coaching, medical screenings and gym memberships, your staff should be healthier and more productive as a whole. This should ultimately lead to reduced absenteeism and increased output.
There’s also a correlation between wellness programs and improved company culture. Healthy employees tend to have stronger relationships with their co-workers and better morale. It can also serve as a great recruiting tool, especially among millennials who are often health-conscious. According to a 2014 survey by Virgin Pulse, “87.4 percent of employees state that wellness positively impacted work culture, and 88 percent describe access to health and wellness programs as an important factor for defining an employer of choice.”
Perhaps the biggest roadblock for most companies is simply having the financing to get an employee wellness program off the ground and running. The New York Times reports, “Medium-to-large employers spent an average of $521 per employee on wellness programs in 2014, double the amount they spent five years earlier.” Although there may be a positive ROI long-term, many companies just don’t have the budget to get the ball rolling.
Another issue relates to privacy or the lack thereof. With many employers collecting medical data from their employees, some individuals view this as an invasion of privacy and don’t wish to share personal information on their health conditions. In some cases, this can be the catalyst for litigation and other battles.
Finally, some people view employee wellness programs as discriminatory. That’s because it’s hard to implement a program without discriminating against employees with chronic health problems, disabilities and even those of lower socioeconomic status. In this case, it may end up doing more harm than good.
Making the Right Choice
Deciding whether or not an employee wellness program is right for your company depends on a variety of factors. If you have a sizable budget to work with and are looking to improve productivity, morale and gain a recruiting edge, it probably makes sense.
However, it’s important to see the whole picture and take the negatives into account as well. If you have a limited budget and are worried about the potential HR headaches that could come along with it, this type of program may not be right for you.