Workplace Wellness: Why it’s More Important than Ever
by Nick A. Titley, M.S., NPI-Certified Posture Specialist
Are you a part of a workplace wellness program? Does your organization offer a plan to its employees? Wellness programs have the potential to lower healthcare costs for both employer and employee, and improve productivity and work life balance. With all the stress you accumulate on your job, you and your workplace could benefit from a wellness program.
Your work is important, but if you work too hard you risk burning out. According to the Harvard Business Review on Bringing Your Whole Self to Work, the dangers of burnout are real; 40% of all workers feel overworked, pressured and squeezed to the point of anxiety, depression and disease. With market changes, outside competition, home-life issues and the constant negativity in the news and about the economy, things could get worse.
“60% of doctor visits stem from stress-related complaints and illnesses,” states The Harvard review. American businesses lose $300 billion annually to lowered productivity, absenteeism, health-care and other related costs that stem from stress.
To help explore this topic, we consulted Natalie Johnson, Wellness Manager for the Award- winning Manatee YourChoice Health Plan, who is also a Performance Coach for the world renowned Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. Natalie explains that alongside the financial benefits of a wellness program these programs can manage and prevent medical conditions and diseases.
Employee absenteeism (absence from work) and “presentism” (reduced performance at work) are issues that workplace wellness programs need to address. Wellness programs can help detect and treat these problems and other serious health related issues at an early stage. The US Department of Labor (DOL) website discusses the nature of “lifestyle diseases” in the United States and how conditions like diabetes and, heart and lung conditions lead to decreased quality of life, premature death and disability, and increased health costs.
When asked about the most common health problems of employees, Natalie stated, “Obesity represents the highest percentage of all the disease states in all her employer groups”. In addition, she says that hypertension and musculoskeletal injuries are also problems companies encounter. Natalie believes that unhealthy employees mean higher healthcare costs and loss of productivity. When employees are healthy they have more energy, are more engaged, and are more productive and effective at their jobs. This is why employers need to invest in wellness programs; it essentially means investing in the health & well-being of the employees.
Still not convinced? Natalie gave us an example of how her organization’s wellness program has affected employees: “We have seen a decrease in healthcare costs by 2.5% every year since 2009. In addition, we have a 97% participation rate in our qualifying events which are the preventative assessments required for the highest reimbursing health plan. Our tobacco users are at 10.5% which is well below the national average and the average for the state of Florida. Our diabetes hospitalization costs have decreased from 500K annually to 70K annually; we have a 10% reduction in members with elevated blood pressure since 2011; we see reductions/improvements in biometrics and labs; we have a higher than average usage of Primary Care Physicians; 85% usage of generic drugs and our Rx costs are 17% lower than national average.”
A study published in the Journal of Health Affairs also found that the disease management components — health related behaviors, addressing risk factors and medication adherence — of a workplace wellness program helped lower costs. Researchers found that after years of participating in a workplace wellness program, employees at PepsiCo saved an average of $30 in health care costs per person.
Workplace wellness programs can lower costs and promote health and well-being. An unhealthy employee means health related problems and costly medical bills for both individual and organization. Staying healthy could be the best thing you do for yourself and for your organization.
- Benson, Herbert. M.D. “Are You Working Too Hard?” Harvard Business Review on Bringing Your Whole Self to Work. Boston: Harvard Business School Pub., 2008. Print.
- P. Caloyeras, John, Hangsheng Liu, Ellen Exum, Megan Broderick, and Soeren Mattke. "Managing Manifest Diseases, But Not Health Risks, Saved PepsiCo Money Over Seven Years." Health Affairs Journal Vol. 33.No. 1 (2014): 124-31. Health Affairs. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. <content.healthaffairs.org/content/33/1/124.abstract>.
- Mattke, Soeren, Hangsheng Liu, John P. Caloyeras, Christina Y. Huang, Kristin R. Van Busum, Dmitry Khodyakov, and Victoria Shier. "Workplace Wellness Programs Study."Department of Labor. RAND Health, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 25 Aug. 2014. <dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/workplacewellnessstudyfinal.pdf>.
- Johnson, Natalie. Personal Interview. 17 June 2015