The Benefits and Costs of an Employee Wellness Program

From reduced health care costs to increased employee morale, there are many benefits of a workplace wellness program. Learn more about the costs associated with employee wellness programs, the benefits of them and examples.

 

In addition to health insurance, many companies offer wellness programs to their employees as an additional health benefit. Companies implement these programs as a way to attract top talent, keep their employees healthy and productive, and decrease employee turnover. This article will help you understand:

  • What constitutes an employee wellness program;
  • Examples of different types of employee wellness programs;
  • The benefits of offering an employee wellness program; and
  • The costs associated with implementing an employee wellness program.

Employee Wellness Program Defined

An employee wellness program can be defined as “an organized, employer-sponsored program that is designed to support employees (and, sometimes, their families) as they adopt and sustain behaviors that reduce health risks, improve quality of life, enhance personal effectiveness, and benefit the organization’s bottom line,” according to an article in Harvard Business Review. Some employers run their own employee wellness program, whereas other companies opt to contract with third-party companies to provide and run their employee wellness programs for them. Employers are neither required by law to provide employee wellness programs nor are there rules that employers must follow when implementing a wellness program.

Examples of Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes. Employee wellness programs can be an ongoing schedule of activities or they can be one-time events. The following are some examples, but the possibilities for different wellness programs are limitless.

  • Offer to pay for, or subsidize, gym or exercise class memberships. This is a common first program for many companies to encourage employees to get active and healthy.
  • Offer standing desks to employees. Standing desks have numerous health benefits including, but not limited to, lowering weight gain and reducing back pain.
  • Provide employees with healthy snacks. Offering healthy snacks is an easy program to implement and may boost energy, aid in weight control, and improve mood.
  • Organize a company sports team. Joining a sports league, such as softball or volleyball, will not only result in exercise, but may also create an opportunity for co-workers to bond and form friendships.
  • Post signs encouraging employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator. A simple “burn calories, not electricity – take the stairs” sign is all it takes to encourage this healthier behavior.
  • Create a fitness challenge with prizes. Examples of challenges include drinking eights glasses of water per day or walking at least one mile per day.
  • Host an employee field trip with team building exercises. Team building exercises can help increase employee morale and nurture a successful company culture. These exercises can create momentum and makes employees feel good about themselves, increase their confidence, and it also shows employees that the company is willing to invest in them.
  • Host a healthy cooking contest. A simple, fun, and hopefully delicious option.
  • Place plants around the office. Another simple, yet effective program. Real plants freshen air, provide décor, and may increase employee productivity.
  • Allow pets in the office. For example, having dogs around the office may decrease stress and the owners typically have to take multiple walks per day.
  • Build a recreation/game room. If you have an extra room, building a recreation/game room can be a create way to foster relationships and create a fun work atmosphere.
  • Designate a person as the employee wellness director. Your company may have someone perfect to manage wellness programs. Designating a person will drastically increase the chances that your company follows through on its wellness initiative.
  • Encourage ride sharing, using public transportation, biking, and walking.
  • Host a health fair. Invite local companies and vendors to visit your workplace and present their products or services to your employees. Try to focus on companies that provide health-conscience products and services.
  • Host a workshop focusing on how stress affects mental health.
  • Provide ergonomic office furniture and equipment. Examples include chairs designed to minimize back pain, computer screens that minimize eye strain, and keyboards designed to minimize the risk of carpal tunnel.
  • Install massage chairs. The use of massage chairs is known to reduce stress and anxiety.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Of course, cost of the program will be a consideration, but be creative and tailor the program with your employees’ and your company’s core values in mind.

Benefits of an Employee Wellness Program

Maintaining an employee wellness program benefits both the employee and the employer.  Examples of the benefits of an employee wellness program are as follows:

  • Participation by the employee encourages healthier behavior, reduces elevated health risks, and improves productivity. Exercise is known to release chemicals (i.e. endorphins) in your brain that help improve your mood. Happier employees generally translate to more energetic and productive workers. Participating in non-work activities together also strengthens employee relationships. Healthier employees may also curb absenteeism.
  • Reduced employer’s health care costs. Studies of employee wellness programs have shown that for every dollar spent on wellness activities and programs, employers saved an average of $3.27 in health care costs.
  • Improved employee recruitment and increased retention of quality employees. Employees feel valued when their companies invest in their well-being by offer a wellness program. Maintaining a wellness program may be the differentiator between your company and a competing employer.

The Costs of an Employee Wellness Program

The costs of providing an employee wellness program is going to depend on how much your company wants to offer your employees. To give some perspective, surveys have found an annual cost for companies of $150 to $2,000 per employee.

A cost-effective option may be paying for a wellness platform. Wellness platforms will provide materials that will allow your company to create a wellness program and typically have monthly costs of $3 to $10 per employee.  Wellness platforms generally include access to a mobile app and website that offer incentive management, a health risk appraisal, and wellness program materials.

If you decide you want to outsource the responsibilities, hiring a wellness vendor to manage a wellness program for your company may be your best option.  The cost of hiring a wellness vendor is generally going to be more expensive than buying wellness platform.  Monthly costs per employee may range from $30 to $150 or more. 

Whichever option you decide, be sure you know what you are getting. If you are purchasing materials from a website, confirm whether it is a one-time download or if it includes updates. If you decide to hire a wellness vendor, require a proposal detailing the program before contracting with them.

This article is meant to be utilized as a general guideline for employee wellness programs. Nothing in this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to provide legal advice on which you should rely without talking to your own retained attorney first.  If you have questions about your particular legal situation, you should contact a legal professional.

Chris Zirke of The Gertsburg Law Firm can be reached at cz@gertsburglaw.com or by phone at (216) 409-9590.

An audit of your policies can help you avoid the pain of lawsuits. The Gertsburg Law Firm now offers CoverMySix, a one-stop legal audit for your business, led by award-winning litigators and in-house counsel. CM6 minimizes your exposure to lawsuits, investigations, disgruntled employees and customers, and all the damage that comes with them. Schedule a confidential, no-cost CM6 Vulnerability Check with Gertsburg Law Firm’s CEO, who will walk you through the minefields in your documents and key processes and tell you how to fix them yourself. Call 440-571-7774 or e-mail mc@gertsburglaw.com to schedule your CM6 Vulnerability Check today. Newer or smaller companies will want to take advantage of CoverMySix for Small Companies and Startups complete legal documentation portfolio. Check out covermysix.com to learn about the full CM6 audit suite.

 

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    The policy should address how social media is managed during a crisis, who is in charge and how the social managers interact with communications teams and senior management.

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