Whether it is a discount for wearing a pedometer to work or a cash incentive for participating in a biometric assessment, more and more companies are adopting corporate wellness plans. Some organizations hope this will provide a healthy ROI when it comes to employee healthcare costs. Others want to increase workplace productivity.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “90% of employers offer wellness incentives, or financial rewards or prizes to employees who work toward getting healthier.” This percentage leapt upwards quickly from a mere 57% in 2009.
But some wonder if these wellness initiatives really work or if the office health craze is a short-lived trend. Here is a simple breakdown of how these plans actually play out in the office.
Employers Want a Health
Corporate wellness plans have developed with the idea that a healthier group of employees will reduce insurance costs. In order to achieve this, some plans focus on education. They promise lowered premiums for employees who take a health-risk assessment, attend nutrition classes or enroll in Weight-Watchers. Other corporations adjust the employee’s premium based on their biometrics. This rewards employees for being lower risks for the company.
Other plans offer a reward for employees who take steps towards improving their health. This can include getting preventative screening, participating in a bike to work program, etc. Sometimes, companies will use a stick instead of a carrot, charging employees who fail to participate in these types of activities with a fine.
Another alternative is called an outcome-based incentive program. This is a way of measuring an employee’s progress by giving rewards to staff members who reach a specified goal such as reducing their percentage of body fat.
Is It Working?
Despite the hope for positive outcomes from these plans, there remain doubts as to how effective they really are. Some of the skepticism is based on the low success rate as many employees will gain weight back or fail to create long-term habits.
Forbes reported in May that data suggests that the ROI of wellness programs might not be as amazing as they are reported to be.
In order to encourage more effective wellness programs, Obamacare specifies that “employers are allowed to reward employees that participate in a wellness program with subsidies that equal 30% of the cost of insurance premiums-but only if the wellness program successfully lowers an employer’s overall healthcare costs.” If it doesn’t, the law states three options:
•the corporation must either absorb the full cost outright
•raise healthcare premiums across the board
•raise premiums on those who don’t participate in the wellness program
Other Benefits Beyond Healthcare Costs
Fox Business reports that healthier employees prove more productive. And healthier means more engaged employees all around. Because “health is more than a one-day event,” the typical “tent-pole” gatherings where companies get employees together to educate and encourage them about health won’t be as effective or sustainable as “integrating new behaviors” into daily life.
What’s more, this kind of program increases happiness as well as health which promises a huge boost in productivity as well. Some great examples of corporations seeking to improve employee engagement include LinkedIn and Facebook.
“LinkedIn managers conduct walking meetings around the Mountain View campus,” says Fox. And Facebook is reportedly “experimenting with treadmill desks.”
Another key factor for success is the inclusion of the entire office, making wellness a social goal, and the involvement of employees’ families since family is the “key influencer when it comes to lifestyle decisions.”
Is finding a corporate wellness plan provider really worth it for your company? The question might really depend on what the company defines as “worth it.” If success means happier and more engaged employees who feel cared for by their company, then corporate wellness plans are definitely worth it.