Corporate Wellness Programs…Do They Really Work?

sphygmomanometer free imageImagine if your employer asked you what your cholesterol level is, your BP (blood pressure), how often you exercise, what your reproductive plans are, if you’re happy at home…oh wait, they do!

Corporate Wellness programs often include questionnaires with very personal questions that seemingly have nothing to do with your work life. Employers want to reduce health care costs and, with good intentions to improve employee health, they engage corporate wellness firms to put wellness programs in place. Do these wellness programs improve well-being?

Some say yes:

Johnson & Johnson employees get $500 off annual premiums for submitting a health profile; the company then uses the data to offer an additional $100 to $250 for participating in activities tailored to the employee, such as a diabetes management program. The company says its return on investment is up to $4 for every dollar it spends on employee wellness.

A 300% ROI (Return on Investment), every $1 invested returns $4 is hard to argue with.

But what if employees don’t participate?

Only 24% of employees at companies that offer a wellness program participate in it.

Instead of, or in addition to, digging for personal details like mammogram frequency and most recent PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels, surely the male employees are subjected to the same gender-specific scrutiny, here’s what employers can do…

First, we have to ask the question, What is wellness? Wellness does not equal a lower BP and better cholesterol levels. These may be markers of a better working physical body. But what really is wellness?

The five aspects of health: physical, social, spiritual, mental and emotional create the picture of wellness, or health.

Gallup’s research shows a clear link between employee engagement and well-being, with managers serving as a conduit between the two.

Here are a few measures employers can take to encourage wellness at work (and many do this already)…

Offer healthy food options, create spaces to encourage social well-being, incorporate quiet spaces, like meditation rooms and silent lounges, build fresh-air environments into design and bring nature in, all of which improve emotional, mental and physical health. These are a fraction of the ways employers can foster wellness that we’ll explore in more detail in next week’s blog.

photo source: hywards/

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