Wellness at Work – It’s Working!

There are some very well-known healthcare trends in this country. Our health is declining. Our healthcare costs are skyrocketing. What might be less widely recognized is a more encouraging development: workplace-based wellness programs are being adopted at increasingly rapid rates. IBISWorld, the nation’s largest publisher of industry market research and statistics, reports that (wellness) industry revenue will increase at an average annual rate of 9.8% over the next five years to $2.9 billion.

Considering that medical costs can eat up nearly 50% of a company’s profits, this trend makes a lot of sense. These costs stem from a number of different areas. For example, according to the CDC, workplace alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use costs US companies over $100 billion each year. The National Safety Council estimates that 1 million employees are absent on an average workday because of stress related problems – resulting in massive productivity challenges. Additionally, research featured in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that preventable illnesses (including obesity, tobacco use and stress) “make up approximately 70% of the burden of illness and the associated costs.”

Thankfully, more and more companies are turning to wellness programs to address these issues. And experts are finding that health promotion programs can lead to improved health and lowered costs. The success of corporate wellness programs is well documented. The Harvard Business Review published an article titled, “What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs” in which they studied a number of workplace wellness programs. A specific study was conducted at a single employer of a random sample of 185 workers and their spouses. The participants Who received cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training from an expert team. Here’s what they found:

“Of those classified as high risk when the study started (according to body fat, blood pressure, anxiety, and other measures), 57% were converted to low-risk status by the end of the six-month program. Furthermore, medical claim costs had declined by $1,421 per participant, compared with those from the previous year. A control group showed no such improvements. The bottom line: Every dollar invested in the intervention yielded $6 in health care savings.”

woman yogaIt makes a tremendous amount of sense to base wellness programs at the workplace. The majority of Americans work and many spend most of their waking hours on the job. Poor health habits take an incredible toll on American business. Thankfully, an increasing number of work-based wellness programs are arising throughout the country – everything from onsite gyms to weight loss programs, health education classes including mindfulness based stress reduction and expanded insurance coverage for preventative screenings. Wellness programs should not be seen merely as a nice, added benefit, they should be a workplace imperative – employees and companies both win when these kinds of programs are adopted. Our book, Sustainable Wellness, offers an excellent guide for a workplace wellness initiative as it is based on over a decade of work with groups of people with similar life experiences.


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