Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs (Part 2)

Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs

Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs

Any savvy reader knows that employees are in business: companies are looking at their bottom line. In other words, CEOs are not providing chef-prepared lunches and massages to employees, and bikes to employees’ children, simply because they are good people. They are doing it to help their bottom line. Does it work?

The answer is that employee wellness programs are almost certainly worthwhile. There is no single dollar amount that applies to each company, since each company and its wellness program are different. However, many studies have shown positive returns on investment (ROI), lower healthcare costs, and improved productivity.

Lower Healthcare Costs

Current findings suggest that the greatest cost savings come not from promoting healthy behaviors among low-risk, already-healthy employees, but rather from reducing costs associated with chronic diseases. This can include preventing chronic disease development among high-risk employees, for example, preventing diabetes among employees with prediabetes through diet and exercise.

Even greater healthcare cost savings can come from managing chronic conditions to prevent progression or complications, for example, enrolling employees with hypertension in programs to monitor their blood pressure, improve medication compliance rates, and incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets.

Take the classic example of Johnson & Johnson’s wellness program, which includes health risk assessment, vaccinations, education, and chronic condition management resources for employees. The program saved a total of over $38 million in its first four years, averaging $224 per patient per year.[11]Savings in inpatient hospital use accounted for over half that amount, and reductions in mental health expenses made up another third. Overall, ROI was $2.71, according to “Harvard Business Review.”[12]

There are other promising figures on the economic benefits of workplace wellness programs that result from reduced healthcare costs.[13]

  • $1,421 lower costs over one year for employees who were initially “high risk,” with a $6 ROI.

  • $1.5 million in cost savings with a program that included workers’ comp and injury care.

  • $1,500 less per year in health care claims from high-risk participants than non-participants.

Since healthcare cost savings and ROI are higher with high-risk employees, it makes sense to include chronic disease management and high-risk patient disease prevention elements in a workplace wellness program. A simple and low-cost way to do this is with a smartphone app, such as Lark, that combines health coaching with tracking and monitoring to encourage long-term healthy behavior change and improve health outcomes.

Absenteeism and Productivity

The values of healthcare costs and cost saving values may be staggering, but they are small compared to values related to productivity. A study in “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine” estimates that the costs of absenteeism, or missed days of work, and presenteeism, or being at work without being as productive as expected, are 2.3 times the cost of healthcare for employees.[14] Workplace wellness programs can improve productivity and lead to fewer sick days.

  • 80% reduction in lost work days within 6 years of implementing a program at MD Anderson Cancer Center.[15]

  • $3,[16] $5.82,[17] or $2.73[18] ROI from reduced absenteeism.

  • Programs addressing obesity, stress, and multiple risk factors simultaneously are likely to have a positive effect on absenteeism, according to research published in “American Journal of Health Promotion.”[19]

Employee wellness statistics tend to show that companies with employee wellness programs are more productive.

Value on Investment

Dollars saved are not the only metric. Other examples of important quantitative metrics are blood sugar levels, body mass index (BMI), physical activity levels, and number of sick days. Even for businesses, though, qualitative metrics can matter. Enter value on investment (VOI), which Kaiser Permanente describes as a qualitative metric, analogous to ROI as a quantitative one. When calculating their own versions of VOI, employers can consider morale, retention, and even worker compensation claims.[20]


Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health

The Top Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs (Part 1) | Lark Health

Lark Wellness and Employee Wellness programs

Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs have many benefits for employees and often for their families. They can improve their physical, mental, and psychological well-being.[1] Let’s discuss them as well as Lark Wellness at a high level before diving in.

Better Employee Health Behaviors

Employee wellness programs often target leading risk factors for mortality. The World Health Organization lists high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood sugar, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol, unsafe sex, and alcohol use as the top 8 contributors to deaths worldwide; low fruit and vegetable intake is number 12.[7] All of these factors are modifiable through behavior change.

A comprehensive program with group or individual education or counseling programs and appropriate fitness, dining, and other facilities can help employees reduce these risk factors. For ongoing support, employers could offer a health coaching app as an effective, lower-cost option that is fully supportive of users’ health goals, from lowering sugar intake to increasing vegetable consumption to managing blood pressure.

Increased Motivation and Morale

It stands to reason that employees who are motivated and have high morale would be better employees. They might be expected to be more productive and contribute to a better workplace atmosphere than employees who have no interest in coming to work each day. Wellness programs could raise motivation and morale through:

  • Providing healthy snacks to stave off hunger without inducing guilt.

  • Encouraging fitness breaks to prevent boredom and fatigue on the job.

  • Sponsoring team-building activities so employees want to support each other and feel proud of their contributions.

Increased morale and motivation can be reflected in lower employee turnover rates. “Harvard Business Review” presents examples such as a 4% turnover rate with implementation of a program at SAS Institute, and a 50% reduction in attrition at Biltmore.[8]

Healthier Work Environment

How healthy is your work environment? Another question is whether your work culture is one of health. As you answer, consider:

  • Are doughnuts or fruit more likely to be served in a morning meeting?

  • Do employees feel more comfortable going outside for lunch or eating while working at their desks?

  • When an employee takes off early to watch his daughter’s softball game, do the other employees roll their eyes or tell him to show them pictures of the game tomorrow?

Workplace wellness programs can improve the healthiness of the work environment in many ways. They can improve employees’ physical health – think: apples instead of cookies at the afternoon meeting, and taking a 3:00 p.m. group walk most days. The environment can also support mental and psychological health by encouraging family time, for example.

Lowering stress is another way to improve the work environment. This can be done through:

  • Allowing voices to be heard in decision-making processes.

  • Asking employees for their opinions.

  • Supporting family time.

  • Recognizing accomplishments.

  • Leaving communication open.

Better Employee Health

Employee wellness programs can improve employee health in many ways.[9]They include:

  • Weight loss.

  • Increased fitness.

  • Lower blood pressure.

  • Lower blood sugar.

  • Fewer hospitalizations.

Stress Reduction

Stress impacts the development of chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and mental health disorders, just to name a few. Employee wellness programs can address stress in two major ways.

  • First, by lowering job-related stress by improving the health environment.

  • Second, by assisting with stress management techniques so employees are better equipped to handle their stressors.

Further health gains from stress reduction. Employee assistance programs can pay off when they offer counseling and related services to employees. These services might assist not only with work-related stress, but also stress from other sources, such as family or relationships. In one year-long comprehensive program, high levels of emotional stress decreased from 21 to 15%.[10]


Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health