Reaping the Rewards of Wellness

wellness blogGenerally speaking, employers have long since made the connection between a healthier workforce and improved productivity. Still, corporate wellness initiatives are sometimes viewed as “nice extras” as opposed to critical, must-have programs with bottom-line implications.

A new study, however, finds more employers recognizing the impact of wellness programs on profitability, and committing to promoting health and wellness as a core business value—even in the midst of economic uncertainty.

New York-based HR consulting firm Buck Consultants’ Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies polled more than 1,300 organizations in 45 countries, finding health promotion “taking its place as a top consideration among drivers of profitability and performance.”

The poll found 87 percent of respondents indicating they recognize their organization’s role in managing employee health; an 8 percent increase over 2010. Among multinational participants, 49 percent said they have a global health promotion strategy, compared to 34 percent that said the same in 2010.

While companies seem to be increasingly cognizant of how employee health affects the organization’s success, only 36 percent of respondents reported measuring specific outcomes of their health promotion programs. A lack of resources (68 percent) and simply not knowing how to measure (34 percent) were the top reasons cited.

Study authors also noted the difference between how employers measuring program results and those not measuring have reacted to the economic downturn. Thirty percent of companies that measure program outcomes said they increased their emphasis on wellness programs in a difficult economic climate, versus 21 percent of employers not measuring outcomes.

“A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, which produces greater revenue than is sustainable over the long term,” says Dave Ratcliffe, principal at Buck Consultants. “So these employers [measuring program outcomes] understand the value of continuing their wellness initiatives even during hard economic times.”

Further, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of U.S.-based employers polled indicated their wellness programs helped cut employee benefit costs. Among these companies, 62 percent reported healthcare cost-trend rate reductions of two percentage points or more, with 13 percent seeing reductions of six percentage points or more.

Overall, these findings reflect the growing awareness among employers that employee health can help drive business results, says Ratcliffe.

With productivity having a direct tie to bottom-line revenue, organizations now consider health promotion as a core business value that positively impacts their ability to compete.”