It seems like wellness programs are constantly under fire. Some say they violate privacy. Others say them embarrass workers. Perhaps most troubling are the claims that these programs and initiatives simply aren’t saving companies any money–although some organizations, like Southwest Airlines and Bank of America, say that having happier, healthier, and more productive employees trumps any monetary savings.
A recent comprehensive study, the first of its kind, seems to have effectively proven that wellness programs can and do provide significant return on investment (ROI) for employers who implement them. This study of a program utilized by Aetna, which was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that it saved the company around $122 per month ($1,464 per year) for each employee who participated.
However, one major difference was that Aetna’s program focused solely on employees who were most likely to incur a large amount of medical costs. Essentially, it targeted workers who were at risk of metabolic syndrome, which is medical speak for those with at least three of the following medical conditions: high glucose, high triglycerides, obesity, high blood pressure, and low levels of high-density cholesterol.
When a group of employees participating in the program was compared with a control group who did not (both having the same rate of risk factors), the results were impressive. For example, those who utilized the wellness program lost an average of 10 pounds over the course of the year, even though many didn’t stay fully involved in the program.
The authors of the report indicate the benefits could increase in the long-term and suggested that future studies should continue on the effect of wellness programs on employer medical costs, as well as employee productivity.
If you’re considering a workplace wellness program, this is a great indication that any dollars spent implementing such a program would be well spent. For more information, see this article on LifeHealthPro.