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Are Office Wellness Programs the Future Frontier in Employee Health Benefits?

Jan 12, 2018 9:00:00 AM / Darwyne Lang / Employee Benefits / 0 Comments

Are_Office_Wellness_Programs_the_Future_Frontier_in_Employee_Health_Benefits.jpgThere’s a lot of buzz about benefits in most human resources circles these days. Employers and business owners wonder if they should offer their employees different benefits to better address employee needs. Most are determined to find a way to offer more benefits for lower costs.

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One increasingly popular idea is the office wellness program.


The New Definition of Health

The idea of “employee wellness” has gained traction in many circles, often among employees themselves. Under this paradigm, the focus is no longer “healthcare” but “wellness.” The idea is to engage employees in looking after their health early on and prevent major health issues later.

This shift reflects Millennial attitudes about holistic health. Whereas previous generations saw healthcare as going to the doctor when they were sick, Millennials tend to see it as practices such as eating healthily and staying fit.

Millennial employees aren’t the only ones whose thinking has shifted. Employers are also realizing the benefits of employee wellness. Healthy employees tend to be more productive and motivated. They also take less time off.


What’s a Wellness Program?

The shift away from older ideas about healthcare has also caused a shift in the benefits world. Today, more employers are using employee wellness programs. These programs are designed to support preventative measures and healthy behaviours around the office.

A wellness program may have many different components. One may be the offer of free healthy lunches. A fitness plan could be another inclusion. There’s also a focus on mental health, so meditation classes or a workshop about beating stress at work might also be part of a wellness program.

Essentially, these programs are designed to encourage and promote healthy behaviour. Employees who look after their health tend to stay healthy longer.


An Ounce of Prevention

Another reason for the shift to wellness programs en masse has been perceived cost savings. One of the main benefits of wellness programs is considered to be reduced reliance on traditional healthcare benefits. Since healthcare benefit costs have been on an upward trajectory, employers welcomed the alternative.

Why would a wellness program cost less than traditional healthcare benefits? It’s much less expensive to offer a healthy salad for lunch than to pay for a lifetime of blood pressure medication and cardiac surgeries, for example. In 2016, more than 75 percent of employers had gotten on board with the idea, according to research conducted by RAND Corp, a non-profit think-tank.

RAND’s research also showed employers tended to spend more on wellness programs than they did on traditional healthcare benefits. The cost of wellness programs is well reflected in the fact they’re now a $6.8 billion USD industry.


Are They Worth It?

The heightened cost of wellness programs could make some employers hesitate. If they don’t lower costs, are wellness programs truly worth it? You might be better to offer traditional healthcare benefits.

A cost-benefit analysis tells a different story. On a dollar-per-dollar basis, wellness programs may very well cost more than traditional healthcare benefits. Yet a wellness program can actually contribute to a better bottom line for your business.

How? More employees, particularly Millennials who are entering the workforce, are demanding a change in benefits. They want wellness programs, and offering one could help your business win over top talent.

Wellness programs can also boost employee productivity. When people feel well, they tend to do better work and get more done.


The Bottom Line

Although nothing is written in stone, it seems clear wellness programs are the way of the future. Employees want them, and wellness programs support them in their efforts to live healthier, more productive lives. In turn, a wellness program can help your business attract and retain top talent, as well as motivate employees.

Happier, healthier employees should be high on every business’ wish list. Consider adopting a wellness program. A benefits consultant can help you choose the right wellness campaigns for your business’ needs.


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Topics: Employee Benefits

Darwyne Lang

Written by Darwyne Lang

Darwyne is the president and CEO of Apri Insurance Services Inc. Having worked in the industry for over 30 years, he lives the benefits business every day. He is a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). He understand the needs, costs, misconceptions, and effects on brand and culture, and the importance of benefits for employees. No matter what he’s doing, whether for work or pleasure, Darwyne competes at a very high level. He loves to lead and innovate in everything he does.

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