Ninty-one percent of midsize firms consider controlling healthcare costs a priority
The need to rein in healthcare costs has encouraged more midsize businesses to initiate employee wellness programs. A study by the ADP Research Institute found that 45 percent of midsize businesses offer some form of program designed to help employees make healthier decisions and reduce spending on health insurance.
"Wellness programs are one of the most important, yet overlooked tools for maintaining personal health," said Alfred Tallia, professor of family medicine and community health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "With diabetes and obesity steadily on the rise, there's no better time to spread awareness about the physical benefits of wellness programs."
The same ADP study found that 91 percent of midsize firms consider controlling healthcare costs a priority. Insurance premiums have increased more than 160 percent since 1999, creating an extensive burden for companies and individuals. Wellness programs have been shown to reduce the number of claims companies face and also boost employee morale and engagement levels. Corporate Wellness Magazine states that every $1 spent on wellness programs leads to $4 in savings from higher productivity and decreased health costs.
Reward and recognition programs can be the key to creating successful wellness initiatives. Writing for the Knoxville News Sentinel, Knox County Health Department workplace wellness dietitian Sarah Griswold notes that these programs need to be incorporated throughout organizations. This provides workers with multiple ways to participate and creates a culture that encourages healthy choices. Recognizing the efforts of employees through incentive programs provides the added push workers need to participate.
Griswold notes that it can be challenging to encourage participation initially, so small increments along a three- or five-year timeline may be most effective. Forbes also recommends using an incentive plan to build the right environment. Offering rewards is a simple way to clearly communicate shared values and keep wellness at the forefront of employees' daily lives. All initiatives of this manner need to be measured to determine success and recognition, as well as to collect information about participation.
"We're achieving impressive results in changing behavior towards healthier lifestyles," said Alan Pollard, CEO for The Vitality Group. "While people are not naturally drawn towards making healthy choices, we've seen that with a combination of education, incentives and other tools we are able to make an impact. The end result benefits not only the employee, but also the employer."