America is one of the most obese countries in the world. As a result, many Americans suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. On average, two-thirds of all US medical spending goes toward combating the complications associated with these two ailments. The majority of these expenses are related to health problems resulting from unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles that compound existing issues. For example, lack of exercise and poor diet exacerbates existing health issues and leads to employees visiting the doctor’s office rather than their workplace. To mitigate the prevalence of health problems and rising medical costs, employers offer workplace wellness programs.
What are workplace wellness programs?
Workplace wellness programs range from healthy lunch and snack options in the office break room to on-site fitness centers. The aim of wellness programs is to improve the health and well-being of employees, increase their productivity, reduce their risk of costly chronic disease, and improve control of chronic conditions. These programs consist of two components: a lifestyle management program and a disease management program. Lifestyle management programs promote the idea of health promotion, which according to the World Health Organization is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. The other aspect, disease management, represents a coordinated effort to help employees with an existing chronic disease to take better care of themselves to avoid serious complications associated with their disease. Workplace wellness programs have grown in popularity and now represent a $6 billion a year industry in the USA.
What saves employers money?
According to a study conducted by the Rand Corporation, the workplace wellness program itself reduces health care expenses for the employer by about $30 per member per month (PMPM). In layman’s terms, a company can save a boat load of money if they pay attention to the health needs of their employees. Of the two components, the disease management program generates the most savings PMPM because the measures implemented in this component cut the number and length of expensive hospital stays as a result of chronic disease. On the other hand, lifestyle management programs do not offer massive savings PMPM; however, one must not forget about their importance in contributing to healthy lifestyles. More employees partake in the lifestyle management programs than disease management programs and participation in lifestyle management increases productivity and reduces absenteeism, two metrics that contribute to elevated company revenues.
Benefits of workplace wellness programs.
Workplace wellness programs benefit both the employer and the employee. For the employer, these programs allow them to save money on health care costs. While statistically disease management programs ultimately save the employer more money than lifestyle management programs, there are significant benefits to both. The benefits of disease management programs are realized in a shorter term because they combat imminent health care costs. Lifestyle management programs’ benefits are more of a long-term benefit because they contribute to prevention of chronic disease down the road. Employers need to have clear-cut goals for their workplace wellness program that focus not only on disease management to mitigate health care costs but also on lifestyle management so that the people that they employ can enjoy a better quality of life that translates into increased productivity. Workplace wellness is a win for everyone involved!