Starting a wellness program is easier (and more affordable) than you think

Workplace wellness is within reach.
Workplace wellness is within reach.
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The global corporate wellness industry is worth over $40 billion dollars, and only getting bigger1. The benefits of instituting company wellness programs are well-documented: For employers who offer and measure wellness programs, 66% saw greater productivity, 63% reported financial growth, and over half saw a decrease in absenteeism. The importance and success rate mean that wellness programs may soon be a standard benefit employers provide as part of a complete health care plan.

For small-to-medium size businesses who lack robust budgets, instituting wellness initiatives may seem out of reach. Even if wellness initiatives can be implemented, these businesses may also lack the staffing expertise and resources needed to manage and track the effectiveness of such programs. Yet, companies with fewer than 500 employees may benefit most from corporate wellness programs. The solution? Empowering employees to improve their health holistically, with affordable strategies that create a culture of wellness. It can be an effective form of health improvement support and help create a workforce that is purposeful, focused, and happy (not to mention present).

When each employee counts

Absenteeism due to illness and injury costs American employers a staggering $225.8 billion annually. Topping this, depression and anxiety may be costing the world as much as $1 trillion a year in lost productivity, and up to 12 billion working days each year until 2030. At companies with staffs of under 500—where each employee’s contributions carry a lot of weight—those numbers are a clear reminder of how unchecked health issues can impact a company’s bottom line.

The power of holistic wellness to alleviate these issues is its focus on health in every aspect of life, beyond just exercise and diet. A multi-faceted approach that stresses interdependent elements of well-being—purpose, social, financial, community, and physical—is effective and cost-efficient. When companies helped employees feel satisfied in those five areas, they were 81% less likely to look for a new employer and reported 41% fewer sick days than individuals who concentrated only on physical well-being2.

Affordable, fun, effective

Corporate wellness solutions don’t have to be expensive or labor intensive. Finding the right partner in health can go a long way in implementing wellness initiatives. Choosing an expert partner that already has wellness programs in place can help to shoulder some of the effort. This not only helps HR managers, it also equips employees with strong tools to understand their health.

Ideally, such a health partner prioritizes preventive care. A health insurer that provides and subsidizes a wide range of nutritionists and wellness experts, for example, can help employees develop better eating and exercise habits. Giving employees the opportunity, and reminder, to take part in annual check-ups can help them keep a pulse on their health and manage their key health numbers: body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Employees can then address any nascent health issues tied to these key health numbers before they worsen. In seeking out a partner that understands and values preventive health, not just reactive sick care, employers and HR managers alike may find that half the battle of keeping employees well is already won.

Businesses can also create programs that require minimal additional resources and upkeep. Managing and supporting company walking clubs or offering locally grown produce can provide employees with wellness within the work ecosystem. Stocking office shelves with books about wellness—or directing employees to a digital well-being library—offers workers a chance to learn about practical health tips, such as how to meditate or quit smoking.

When it comes to technology, an investment in affordable health tracking devices for staff allows them to monitor, track, and share their health gains with colleagues. Health tracking apps can also help employees make and meet health goals. Limiting non-urgent work-related messages after hours and during weekends lets employees fully recharge.

To cash in, wait it out

The full rewards of corporate wellness are not always apparent at the start. That’s why for small-to-midsize companies, it often makes sense to outsource the organization and planning to a specialist, or pair up with a health benefits provider that focuses on both physical and mental well-being. Just as employers need a partner in health, so too do employees need a provider who values their health as much as they do, and understands health from a well-rounded perspective.

Having happy, healthy employees could mean a happy, healthy business. But health and happiness don’t come easy in the workplace. Employers of small and medium-size companies should consider investing resources in holistic wellness initiatives to help improve results. Even if it takes a long time to move the dial and reap the financial reward, it’s worth the wait.

To learn more about the importance of promoting health and wellness within your organization, visit Cigna.com.

This article was produced on behalf of Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company by Quartz Creative and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

  “Statistics and Facts,” Global Wellness Institute (web). www.globalwellnessinstitute.org, accessed October 16, 2017.

  “Most Company Wellness Programs Are a Bust,” Douglas R. Stover and Jade Wood. News.Gallup.com, web. February 4, 2015.