Corporate health promotion programs, often referred to as wellness programs, have become a substantial player in the effort to promote the nation’s health care reform. However, because no guidelines or requirements exist as to what constitutes a wellness program, efforts and successes vary. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded a project to determine the best practices for developing company wellness programs. A major reason corporations are attracted to developing wellness programs is that insurance companies often offer incentives for doing so. Additionally, workplaces with healthy workers experience less absenteeism, increased productivity, and fewer accidents.
A lack of guidelines for establishing wellness programs has led to some corporations offering as little as flu vaccines and access to third-party smoking cessation and weight loss programs. Not surprisingly, those corporations see little benefit in return. Ideally, the workplace should offer on-site and interactive wellness and fitness resources. Examples of these resources are on-site gymnasiums or memberships to local ones, designated break times for walking, and organized weight loss and smoking cessation groups. Because non-smokers, people at ideal body weights, and those who exercise regularly are at lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and joint failure companies with these types of programs potentially reap rewards by offering them. Not only may insurance premiums decrease but also the workforce is stable and more productive.
The American population in general has recently experienced a rise in numbers of aging workers, rates of obesity and related conditions, and poor eating habits. Because those in the workforce spend approximately one-third of their time at the workplace, it is logical to introduce healthier lifestyles there. Wellness programs at the workplace offer the added benefit of coworker camaraderie, encouragement, and employer incentives. This atmosphere increases engagement for health and wellness activities. Technological advances and innovations may play a part; fitness trackers and other software programs are valuable and enjoyable tools for monitoring progress. The more comprehensive corporate wellness programs integrate these tools, as well.
Insurance companies are not the only institutions to offer support to employers who implement wellness programs. Some states, such as Missouri, and the federal government also provide guidance for establishing environments conducive to healthy choices. These agencies help develop healthy eating promotions in food service areas, plan exercise break routines, and implement other workplace changes. In addition to diet and exercise, programs may focus on stress reduction, mental health, and breastfeeding. The agencies also seek to influence positive changes in workplace policies and systems that will normalize the existence of corporate wellness programs.
Corporations often gain financial benefits from starting wellness programs, not only from insurance premium savings but also from fewer worker’s compensation claims, less staff turnover, and increased productivity. However, not all benefits are financial. Implementing comprehensive, responsive wellness programs offers employees a chance to improve their quality of life, not just their work performance. Taking on this responsibility is a powerful way companies can have a positive impact on the health of the nation’s workers, making them better corporate citizens.