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The Win/Win of Corporate Wellness Programs

May 31, 2016, 12:00 PM | Published under Opinion by Andy Alexander

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One of the latest benefits to show up at many companies is a wellness program.  With some of the biggest and “funnest” out there creating very unique and engaging programs. (Seven unique wellness programs)

While the benefits of these programs may seem obvious for the employee, does it really benefit the company?  Research shows that they do indeed benefit the company as well as the employee.

The fitness craze has been increasing rapidly over the last decade or more, with fitness clubs alone being a 78 billion dollar industry.  And that’s not mentioning health foods, fitness gadgets, etc, etc.

But how does it really help a company to offer these same services to its employees?  Employees are one of the biggest expenses a company has.  Especially if they’re not healthy.  A Gallup Poll estimates that overweight employees miss an estimated 450 million extra days of work per year compared to healthy workers.  The missed work and employee turnover are obviously expensive for the company.

WellnessWhat about just plain ole’ productivity?  Aren’t people spending a lot of time with this health stuff?  According to Virgin Pulse, 64% of employees report increased productivity directly related to being in a wellness program.

Besides the direct monetary benefits a company might gain from implementing a wellness program, another way the company benefits is by creating a culture that the company cares about its employees.  This can lead to less turnover and happier employees, which again leads to more productivity and creativity in the work they do.

So how does a company having a wellness program do such a good job of accomplishing these goals?  How does it motivate people to get on board better than, say, all the advertising in the fitness industry already out there?

It’s about creating a culture of health and fitness that motivates and encourages employees to stick to their health goals.  To even create new goals.

Exercising and eating healthy foods is often difficult for us humans.  We feel that it takes up a lot of our time, which we don’t have enough of.  It’s often easier to grab fast food on the way home, rather than go home and prepare meals.  We know we should be doing better, but we choose the easier route.

Many in the fitness industry have noticed that the best way to keep people on track is through social and peer connections.  If the people around us are doing these things, it makes it easier for us to follow suite.  Having goals that others know about, or even a little friendly competition, can help us stay on track much better than if we are trying to do these things on our own.

The company must make wellness a part of the company.  Not just something a few people do.  Of course, people aren’t forced to participate, but the ideas behind the wellness program should be company-wide, promoted, talked about and encouraged.  Meetings should be regular and often.  If it’s just something that happens once in a while, there won’t be any real motivation to accomplish goals.  The company can even have contests, or at least creating a program that charts progress in some way.

 

So why should the employee be excited by all this?  Perhaps some employees aren’t that interested in a wellness/fitness program?  It’s part of the company’s job, then, to help instill these concepts.  But doing so can be tricky.  If a person hasn’t been interested in being more healthy at this stage of their lives, it may be difficult to get them to make a paradigm change in that direction.

Much of the difficulty in changing minds may come from a lack of knowledge on just how important living a healthier lifestyle is.  Many people think that living a sedentary lifestyle is fairly normal, and you only need to exercise if you want to go above and beyond the normal, and be a fitness freak or similar.

But many studies have shown that being sedentary is not normal, and that to be even normal our bodies need consistent and vigorous exercise.  An Epic Study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine studied how 23,000 people adhered to four simple behaviors: Not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet and Balancemaintaining a healthy weight, prevented 93 percent of diabetes, 81 percent of heart attacks, 50 percent of strokes, and 36 percent of all cancers.

As well, the INTERHEART study showed that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease.

Exercise and diet have also been show to lessen greatly, even eliminate, the amount of medications that people with supposedly chronic illnesses have been taking.

The company can be a big help in getting people educated and motivated in being healthier, and therefore, more productive.  All of this saves money for the company directly and may lessen insurance premiums for the employee and the company.  It’s a win/win situation. 

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