Free gym memberships, yoga classes, time off to achieve work-life balance. To a small business owner struggling to pay the bills, these kinds of employee perks can seem like pie-in-the-sky ideas. New research reveals, however, that wellness programs may just improve the bottom line.
In one of the only long-term studies of its kind, researches followed the wellness efforts of a Midwest utility company over the course of nine years. While the company spent $7.3 million for the program, it ultimately saved $12.1 million in medical and pharmacy costs, employee time off, and worker's compensation costs.
The findings are good news for companies looking to implement wellness programs, said Dee Edington, director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center and the study’s principal researcher.
"One of the advantages of the study is it shows that a sustainable program will give you savings," said Edington.
Slowly, companies are realizing that healthcare insurance plans, aimed at helping the unwell, should also include wellness plans to keep healthy workers healthy, Edington said. While wellness plans remain largely the domain of large companies, they are growing among medium-sized companies," she said.
So what should a company do when looking for a benefit plan for employees?
"You want a benefit plan that will take care of your sick people but also keep your healthy people healthy and working," Edington said.
There are myriad programs companies can offer to contribute to employee wellness.
“Companies both big and small provide their employees with wellness programs. These built-in programs often include online risk assessments, on-site screening and health coaching programs. These coaches motivate employees and employers to initiate behavioral changes to help everyone in the company achieve a more physically fit lifestyle,” said John Leifer, National Director of Health Policy at CBIZ, a national business consulting firm.
Leifer said companies should not let the bad economydiscourage their use of wellness programs.
“It’s imperative, now more than ever, to keep these programs intact for employees,” Leifer told BusinessNewsDaily.