If it is indeed true (and it is) that a business’s most important asset is its people, then investing in employee health should be first on everyone’s agenda.
That isn’t the case, but the instances of wellness programs are growing. This growth is not a fluke.
Corporate wellness programs are becoming big business. A study from the RAND Corp. estimates that corporations could be spending more than $8 billion on wellness programs.
Belief in Investment
Jackrabbit Technologies believes that investing in employees’ health results in better morale, lower turnover, and higher productivity. And that isn’t simply because the business partners and company founders have seen it work in the workplace. Mark Mahoney and Mike Carper understand it personally.
“Health and fitness have always been very important to me. I believe it is a key to my high energy, productivity, and positive attitude. I believe in investing in the health of our employees because I want them to experience similar benefits to the ones that I’ve experienced from living a healthy lifestyle.”
Those are the words of Jackrabbit’s president, Mark Mahoney. Jackrabbit invests in health and well-being programs for its employees and doesn’t hesitate because of personal experience and evidence in its own employees.
Mark’s statement is reinforced by a poll taken among business leaders about what factors are influenced by employee health. There are the top 5 by percentage selected:
Benefits cost reduction 30%
“This isn’t something that is just for big business. Small businesses must look at this as a benefit to their business and an important recruiting tool in hiring,” adds Mark.
Overall, 60% of small-business owners believe that employee health and wellness programs are worth the investment, while 85% of those that currently have health and wellness programs agree they are worth the investment. And 93% of small business decision-makers say the health of their employees is important to the bottom line.
“Sitting at your desk for too long can kill you. This is no joke. ‘Move it or lose it’ is so true,” notes Mike Carper. “With each passing year, I personally feel it more and more every day when I don’t move enough. Breaks with movement and activity (beyond finger and eye movement) are key. I’m happy to see more and more news and articles raising this awareness. CNN just covered this! I’m excited to see more creative ideas, solutions and technology advancements that support a healthier workplace and a healthier life.”
Mike’s view of this was solidified after a seeing evidence of the benefits of movement during the workday displayed in his doctor’s office.
“On a recent doctor’s visit for a sinus infection, my doctor had a graphic on a whiteboard showing that standing with movement can burn double the calories than sitting all day. That adds up quickly and without even breaking a sweat. Couple this with exercise and the results could be really big.”
Mike also provides us with another resource:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that, after personal care (including sleep), working is the next highest activity. This is based on where time is spent when employed full-time. are
Click here or chart image for dynamic information on BLS website.
The benefits of investing in employee health and wellness far outweigh any loss of investment your company may incur when employees leave. Regardless of how long employees are part of your company, their performance, productivity, and morale bring return the investment so hesitating to provide such benefits just shouldn’t happen.
Another study was done by Lincoln Industries across several industries in different regions of the US. Despite these differences, all businesses showed positive wellness outcomes. Exercise and dietary behaviors significantly improved. And when they did, the subjects also demonstrated positive wellness outcomes. There was also significant improvement in health perception and life satisfaction.
Small business can often times more easily provide good wellness programs because the benefits of wellness is more obvious in small businesses, leadership support of health and wellness is more visible, impact absenteeism (one of the results of poor health) is greater on small businesses, small businesses are more nimble and can offer wellness programs more quickly and easily, and most brokers work well with small to medium-sized businesses.
Tangible benefits support the growing popularity of wellness programs.
Programs for employee wellness can:
- Improve your business’s safety.
- Reduce absenteeism.
- Increase productivity.
- Reduce healthcare costs.
- Attract and retain a high-performing workforce.
- Improve employee health, energy and morale.
- Improve a business’s work culture and environment.
Companies with successful safety, health, and environmental program outperformed the S&P 500 by 3-5%. If you believe this, you believe that a healthier workplace is a good thing for the business and employees. The healthier workforce requires fewer sick days and works at its peak productivity level. Workplace wellness programs are proved to be the source of $3.50-to-$1 savings-to-cost ratio in reduced absenteeism and healthcare costs alone, according to the Center for Wellness and Nutrition. The impact of healthier employees to a business’s ability to maintain its competitive edge isn’t calculated into this.
Savings and reductions can show up in:
- The number of accidents and work-related illness.
- Sick pay costs.
- Insurance costs.
- Pressure on employees to cover for those who are absent.
Larry Boress is president of the Chicago-based Midwest Business Group on Health. His research shows that employers can reduce health care costs by helping employees identify their risks and understand and treat their conditions.
“Treating diabetes can be incredibly expensive, but someone who understands their condition and knows what to do, can be less costly. Wellness can be an effective tool to reduce an employer’s overall exposure while helping the employee learn how to manage that condition and stay as healthy as possible.”
Some hard facts proven in real company environments include the story of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California where a 75% reduction in the number of sick days was evidenced in the participation group after the company implemented a wellness program focused on healthy eating and physical activity.
Camfil Clean Air Solutions’ plant manager notes that the company’s “employees are more engaged about their own health, and they speak up more in meetings. Increased productivity is important, but so it employee well-being.”
Bandwidth, a communications technology company, has a great example of a way a small company can be creative with its Whole Body wellness program. The company extended its typical 30-60 minute lunchtime to 90 minutes. By doing this, the company has given its employees enough time to hit the gym or relax or read a book before returning to work.
Ruskin Manufacturing Company from Ontario CA shares their reports of fewer injuries as a result of morning stretches and other wellness activities that they’re implementing.
A full-service benefits company in Massachusetts has a holistic program that focuses on emotional and financial health as well as physical well-being. The small company has won awards for its workplace wellness program.
More Than Talk
It’s not enough to just say you want employees to be healthier. A business must get behind it with programs, incentives, goals, and plans.
- Create committees in your workplace.
- Create employer-employee partnerships.
- Work with insurance options to support program.
- Constantly monitor, evaluate, and tweak your program.
- Establish mutually beneficial community partnerships.
- Create a wellness plan mission statement.
Take this last one, for example. D’Arrigo Bros. Co.’s program states this:
“The mission of our wellness program is to introduce a healthy lifestyle and support employees in making healthy choices while at work and at home.”
Serious About Health
Jackrabbit takes employee health seriously. Mahoney and Carper are enthusiastic in their participation and support of Jackrabbit’s wellness program. They’ve brainstormed, researched and listened to employees to fashion the growing program that is an investment in the company’s most valuable assets.
Because Jackrabbit is a virtual company, this gets interesting. Jackrabbit employees work from their homes. Jackrabbit extends to all the opportunity to install ergonomic or health-supportive desks on the company’s dime. Several have chosen standing desks, some have the Cubii. Regardless of their choices, they are able to select work environments that meet their health needs and help them to work healthier and to be uber-productive!
Jackrabbit has a couple of fitness challenges each year ranging from the complex with formulas for difficulty and body fat percentages to simple ones that just track steps. With employees who are quite competitive, this gets interesting. The company sweetens the pot with some pretty impressive cash prizes. More than 50% of the company is participating in the most recent weight loss and step challenges.
Every company event has healthy meal selections as well as healthy snacks. The health effort is also a community service one, as with each box of healthy snacks purchased the company provides 10 meals through Feeding America.
Jackrabbit’s insurance provider has options that reflect support of those following healthy practices such as refraining from tobacco use. Eligible employees and spouses in the medical plan receive wearable Trio Motion activity trackers. By using these, they are rewarded for meeting walking requirements. Each enrollee can earn up to $1095 per year to help defray out-of-pocket medical expenses. What an incentive! Jackrabbit has 71% of eligible employees registered in the Trio Motion Tracker program. Of this group, 10% have hit the reimbursement goals for out-of-pocket expenses.
Another benefit that is what some would consider a quasi-wellness benefit is 24/7 Teledoc. This saves employees time and money by enabling them to talk to a doctor in mere minutes when you’re connected with a board-certified doctor 24/7/365 through a phone call. No more being forced to sit in a room with other sick people – spreading all sort of germs to one another!
Tracey Chantry, who heads up Jackrabbit’s HR department, notes, “We make a conscious effort to support and encourage a healthy lifestyle at Jackrabbit. We know that healthy employees are happy employees and a little competition now and then helps build stronger relationships in a virtual world. Jackrabbit is a strong supporter of work-life balance. That is why we offer benefits such as a medical plan with a wellness piece, reimbursement for standup desks and under the desk ellipticals that can help our employees stay healthy, happy and productive.”
Each year in the US alone these truths occur:
-Productivity losses linked to absenteeism cost employers $225.8 billion (with a b). This is $1,685 per employee! (CDC, International Monetary Fund)
-Presenteeism (fancy term for people going to work when they’re sick) accounts for nearly 2/3 of the total costs of worker illness. (Harvard Business Review)
-More than 38% of the US workforce (48 million workers) have not paid sick leave. (NHIS)
-Employers report nearly 4 million nonfatal work-related injuries and illnesses. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
-55,000 deaths from work-related injuries and illnesses. (Leigh JP, Millbank Quarterly)
(FYI – Motor vehicle accidents kill approximately 30,000 per year.)
Globally, the economic burden of work-related injury is equivalent to 4% of the World Gross Domestic Product. (International Social Security Administration)
There are other reasons that this should be disconcerting to employers:
By 2020, 1-in-4 American workers will be over 55. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Four of the 10 most expensive health conditions for US employers are related to heart disease and stroke: high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, chest pain. These conditions can be greatly reduced or eliminated through healthy living.
Some of the serious health challenges that today’s employees face are: stress (the #1 workforce health issue), obesity (miss 450 million more days of work than healthy employees), heart disease and stroke ($1 out of every $6 spent on US healthcare), fatigue (leads to errors, low productivity and safety concerns), chronic pain (loss in productivity is $11.6 to annually), diabetes (medical costs doubles that of healthy employees), and tobacco use (accounts for 1-in-5 deaths per year).