Increase in Popularity of Wellness Programs

Oct 28, 2015

A workplace wellness program is a plan sponsor led initiative to motivate plan members to make lifestyle choices that improve their health. Data collected from the plan members’ health risk assessments can aid in the design of wellness programs. These programs are becoming a commonplace as some plan sponsors even implement programs to help plan members manage chronic health conditions.

But why is there an increase in the popularity of wellness programs?

Many plan sponsors already know that investments in employee wellness yield improvements in employee morale, engagement and the organization’s overall culture. However, the programs also serve as viable business strategies that reduce costs and improve health outcomes of the plan members.

In Canada, employers have a general understanding that there is a connection between healthy workers, productivity and employee engagement. Studies on the efficacy of these employer-sponsored wellness programs have revealed that they do improve the overall health of plan members and decrease healthcare claims on employer benefit plans.

Case in point, a review of past studies by the Richard Ivey School in London, Ontario found that wellness programs reduce absenteeism by 1.7 days per employee. Similarly, in 2010, a Harvard University study cites that there is a $3.27 savings in medical costs and a $2.73 savings in disability, sick leave and workers’ compensation costs per dollar invested in wellness programs.

In order to increase plan member participation, plan sponsors have resorted to giving out incentives such as cash, travel vouchers, gift certificates or other goods. No wonder workplace health and wellness programs have become so popular from the perspectives of both the plan sponsor and plan member.

In 2013, the Richard Ivey School of business began a rigorous examination of workplace wellness that promises to measure the full return on investment of a comprehensive wellness program over a two year period. Stay tuned for the results of this new research as it may provide the necessary business case for plan sponsors to invest in a greater number of workplace wellness programs, thus further increasing their popularity.

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