The debate over wellness ROI and whether corporate wellness programs "work" is heating up again after Rand researchers released an article in Health Affairs. This time it's PepsiCo's "Healthy Living" wellness program that is under the microscope.
While the PepsiCo wellness program helped employees stay healthy, because it did not reduce overall health care costs, it's been labeled as a failure in many circles. As I read through some of the negative comments across the web, I can't help but wonder about the true intention of wellness programs.
Some companies out there believe in wellness - even if it doesn't affect insurance premiums. Take for example, social networking startup, imo, who finds that healthy employees make happy employees. They have treadmill desks available and employees are given a pair of custom Nike shoes to mark their one-year anniversary.
For years the wellness industry has focused their value around medical cost savings. But I would argue if you changed employees' lives than your program was successful. It comes down to the goals and objectives of your wellness program. Ask yourself - "Is reducing health care costs the only goal of our wellness program?" Basically are you only investing in wellness to save money or are you trying to build a healthier, happier workforce?
There are lots of other reasons for corporate wellness programs besides a strategy to reduce health care costs. Here's just a few ways that they can be beneficial:
- Healthier employees are more productive: Obese employees experience higher levels of absenteeism due to illness than normal weight employees.
- Attract the best employees: Corporate wellness programs show a company’s commitment to its employees, and can be a draw for top talent to join or stay.
- Increased life expectancy: On average, every minute of exercise can extend a person's life by 1.5 to 2 minutes.
- Keeps employees emotionally healthy: Regular exercise is a great way to reduce stress and feelings of depression and anxiety.
- Boost energy levels: Employees that exercise regularly are more alert during work hours and they are less likely to get tired during the workday.
It's time that employers realize that wellness programs won't lead to instant savings, but they can bring long-term benefits to organizations.
What about your wellness program? What key metrics do you measure? Share in the comments section below.