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The Scoop on Employee Wellness Programs

When employee wellness programs first rolled onto the corporate scene in the late 90s, they were viewed as little more than a posh extra, aimed to keep employees happy.

Fast forward to 2018—employee health and wellness programs are as much a part of the corporate fabric as healthcare, vacation days, and 401k’s.

But how and why have the last two decades seen such a significant shift when it comes to this benefit?

Employee wellness is a win-win situation

For starters, employee wellness is something which matters to both employees and employers. It’s a quintessential win-win. By incorporating an employee wellness initiative, the workforce becomes healthier and happier. Morale is boosted, employees are more engaged and satisfied, and productivity increases. Plus, as the workforce ages and healthcare costs continue to rise, tax incentives and grants for wellness programs can be used to offset the expense.

It feels good to be taken care of

When it comes to keeping morale up, little besides pay has as dramatic an effect as the feeling of being appreciated. Working for a company who simply cares about their employees is important to us. It’s a basic human need to feel recognized, respected, and rewarded for hard work, and an employee wellness policy does just that. It says: we see you, we care about your health and wellbeing, and we want your time here at work to be as enjoyable and safe and comfortable as possible. That’s key. But what’s really significant here are the health benefits. From obesity prevention, lowered blood pressure, and cholesterol management, to stress relief and mental health, a corporate-sponsored employee wellness program can have dramatic health benefits.

When healthcare costs increased 7%, companies with wellness programs had an increase of only 1-2%.

Employee wellness is good for the bottom line

Businesses stand to gain from healthier employees. Actual dollars for one thing—and a lot of them. According to Harvard Business Review, since Johnson & Johnson shifted to a health-focused corporate culture a decade ago, hypertension and physical inactivity have been cut in half, and the company has saved $250 million on healthcare expenses—a return of $2.71 for every dollar spent.

In 2012, the American Journal of Health Promotion published a review of studies which found a 25% decrease in sick leave, health plan costs, worker’s compensation, and disability insurance costs at companies with an employee wellness program. And in 2014, when the national average of healthcare costs increased by 7%, a study by the Harvard Business Review showed an increase of only 1-2% for companies with wellness programs.

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But it’s not just about lowered healthcare costs. Think about productivity: It’s simple really—physical activity, bodily awareness, and good nutrition are going to boost energy and enhance focus. It’s a recipe for optimal productivity, both in the short- and long-term.

Having a strong employee wellness policy also helps to create a tighter-knit community. It builds a culture of camaraderie, bringing employees closer together as a group, working together toward challenges and goals. So companies who have an organized employee wellness program have less turnover, too.

So what if you don’t have an employee wellness program?

You’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Not only are you missing out on all the above benefits, but you’re also taking yourself out of the market for new hires. To stay competitive in today’s environment and attract the best talent, an employee wellness program is a must. With companies like Google and Facebook taking the world of benefits by storm, everyone knows what kind of perks are out there, and everyone (especially millennials) is looking for them.

Take Google for example—massage parlors and nap rooms, on-call physicians, free bikes, a healthy cafeteria with vegan options, a giant slide, and game tables galore. When careers with these perks are out there, companies need to take note. You want top talent? You need to offer top benefits.

While most companies do promote employee wellness activities to some extent, small initiatives here and there don’t pay off the way a comprehensive approach can. When it comes to getting the biggest bang for your buck, look for a program which addresses all the elements of wellness for a more holistic approach.

Thinking about adding a wellness program? First things first. You’ll need to gauge your workforce—an employee wellness measurement is a good place to start. Use an employee wellness survey to get a sense of where you stand—how your employees are feeling and what areas they’d be interested in improving.

What does a successful employee wellness program look like?

At Urban Wellness Clinic, when we work with your employees, we go beyond simply teaching participants how to strike a work/life balance. Instead, we use a one-on-one approach to create tailor-made solutions that guarantee your staff is in good health and in the best possible shape to work efficiently and productively.

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Our four-part wellness solution comprises the following areas:

  • Ergonomic Assessment Individualized comprehensive assessment where we examine how employees sit at their desk, including placement of arms, height of computer screen, etc., all of which is designed to increase productivity, improve safety, and ensure greater comfort.
  • Yoga Therapy Explore movement as medicine with on-site yoga exercises designed to heal chronic work-related injuries, reduce stress, improve alignment, correct breathing patterns, and fix posture issues.
  • Nutrition Counseling Eat to beat the 2 p.m. slump. We show employees how proper nutrition is a key component of wellness and demonstrate which foods can boost energy, clear the mind, and help to maintain a healthy body through our lunch and learn sessions.
  • Active Release Technique Our physical therapists provide medical massages to treat common work-related overuse injuries, like back pain, headaches, sciatica, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you’re an employer thinking about increasing your wellness initiatives for your employees, check out Urban Wellness Clinic’s offerings. We’ve helped countless companies (including Slack, Prada, and Mustela) develop specialized holistic wellness programs custom tailored to the needs of their employees. So whether you’re a small startup or a Fortune 500 corporation, our skilled team will work with you to seamlessly integrate a company-wide program which will benefit the wellbeing of your staff while increasing productivity, cutting health costs, and increasing your bottom line.

Best in health,

Dr. Emily Kiberd