Worksite Wellness as a Business Strategy That Saves Money and Lives

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The Affordable Care Act has made you think about wellness.  How do you do it?  Where do I start?  Do I really need it?  This article is the first in a series of articles that will answer some of the questions above.  Today we will focus on WHY WORKSITE WELLNESS.

People spend more aware time at work than any other place.  Time is a precious commodity in our fast-paced world.  The saying goes; you can lead a camel to water, but you cannot make him drink.  That is true for people as well, but businesses can help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Not only is wellness the right thing to do, it is a smart business strategy! Analysis of 22 large-employer studies showed significant positive impacts on healthcare costs and absenteeism:

• Employee healthcare costs were reduced $3.27 for every $1 spent on comprehensive worksite health programs.

• Absenteeism costs dropped by $2.73 for every $1 spent. 1

Local success has matched or exceeded the results indicated in the results listed above.  Lincoln Industries, Duncan Aviation, and the State of Nebraska have all received national recognition for their wellness program.  Return on investment for these programs range from 4:1 to 9:1.

Many employers view of wellness is very limited however.  Often, the initial impetus to start a program is to see a reduction in health insurance premiums.  All of the successful employers listed in this article will testify that “wellness is a marathon not a sprint.”  In addition, recent studies indicate that indirect costs associated with poor health such as increased absenteeism, workers compensation, and short and long term disability, are two to three times medical and pharmaceutical costs. 2

Comprehensive and integrated wellness programs yield the greatest results.  Wellness programs should be aligned with safety, job design, and early return to work programs.  Wellness programs should also be inclusive of all aspects of healthy living such as physical health, mental/emotional health, and spiritual health.

Setting up a program is much like writing a good business plan.  The research is quite clear that the following areas must be satisfied to have a quality wellness program:

1)    Leadership support

2)    Data collection (employee and spouse)

3)    A written plan based on the data collected

4)    Supportive environment and policies

5)    Evaluation metrics to quantify program efforts

Follow up articles will break down each segment of the evidence-based model listed above.  Businesses that follow this series and implement the suggestions should be eligible to apply for local and national recognition such as the Governor’s Excellence in Wellness Award www.nebraska.gov/wellness, Well Workplace www.welcoa.org, or the C.Everett Koop Award (for highly advanced programs) www.thehealthproject.com.

1 Baiker K., Culter D., Song Z. Workplace wellness programs can generate savings. Health Affairs. 2010;29(2):304-311.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Healthy Worksite Program, 2012.


by Lisa Henning

402-434-7200

lhenning@unicogroup.com

UNICO Group

www.UnicoGroup.com


Lisa is a full time wellness consultant available to UNICO MIDLANDS clients.  She has more than 20 years of experience in the field and will develop wellness programs for employers across Nebraska and in surrounding states.