11 Data-Backed Benefits of Employee Wellness Programs You Need to Know About
Employee wellness programs seem to offer obvious benefits. There’s general well-being of course, plus health, happiness…and the pursuit of more happiness?
In other words, it can be surprisingly hard to articulate any concrete benefits of employee wellness programs, especially from a business standpoint. However, that’s exactly what you need to do if you want to make a solid case for a program you’ve been thinking about implementing.
Fail to make a solid argument, and your pitch to key decision makers could merit responses like these:
- “Sure, wellness programs for employees looks fun and sounds like a good idea, but do they really offer any benefits?”
- “Wellness programs don’t actually work; companies only implement them to have good talking points for annual reports.”
- “Why implement a program designed to achieve a concept as abstract as wellness?”
But don’t you give up just yet—you’re about to get all the information you need to craft a water-tight response to those questions and others.
We’ve pulled together a list of compelling anecdotal evidence on the benefits of employee wellness programs. Based on a range of criteria, from financial strategy to employee retention, we conclude that employee wellness programs definitely deserve your company’s attention and investment.
You can use our evidence-based list to make an irresistible case that might just turn your dreams for employee wellness programs into realities.
Tip: We even have an infographic that illustrates some of the benefits of wellness programs. Bring copies to your pitch to make your points memorable. Download now >
Benefit # 1: Employee wellness programs increase healthy behavior and curb the risk of lifestyle-related disease.
In the conclusion of a Workplace Wellness Programs Study Report published by Rand Health Quarterly, researchers write:
“Consistent with prior research, we find that lifestyle management interventions as a component of a wellness program can reduce risk factors, such as smoking, and increase healthy behaviors, such as exercise. We find that these effects are sustainable over time and clinically meaningful. This result is of critical importance, as it confirms that workplace wellness programs can help contain the current epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases, the main driver of premature morbidity and mortality as well as health care cost in the United States.”
The report suggests that wellness programs can have a significant positive effect on employees’ health—and their lives. This might not sound like a big deal, but it’s actually a major accomplishment, a testament to the power of employee wellness programs.
From a public health perspective, health behavior change is difficult to accomplish. If employee wellness programs can motivate long-term behavior change, then they hold far more value than traditional, less effective, health interventions focused on individual willpower.
Case in point: Employee wellness programs could be the key to achieving long-term health.
Make your case: A well-executed employee wellness program can actually make our employees healthier in the long run. If we implement a program and document the results, we’ll have another compelling employee benefit that attracts and keeps incredible talent. The benefits of healthy employees is something not to be looked over.
Benefit # 2: Employee wellness programs increase engagement.
In a report conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Humana, researchers write:
“Most critically for employers, however, the EIU research offers striking evidence that wellness programmes align employer and employee goals more closely. They increase employee engagement with the company’s mission and goals. Employees are also more likely to see their own wellness as being linked with professional success. Companies that build a wellness culture thus acquire a workforce that is not only more focused and engaged, but that sees that culture as benefiting their careers.”
Make your case: Evidence suggests employee wellness programs could boost employee engagement and the tremendous benefits of employee engagement leads to improved retention and productivity. Plus, an employee wellness program engages and benefits employees outside of the office, so they’re more likely to feel that their job has a positive impact on multiple aspects of their lives, and they’ll be more likely to stay with us long-term.
That means this program could also reduce our recruiting, hiring, and training costs over time.
Benefit # 3: Employees want wellness programs.
Experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed surveys to determine the overall perceptions of wellness programs from employee and employer perspectives. Their data analysis revealed that about 59.4% of employees think employers should attempt to improve the health of their workers.
What does this statistic really indicate? It indicates that popular opinion supports the idea of corporate involvement in our health. As more companies adopt wellness programs, the number of employees demanding them will likely increase.
Companies can stay ahead of demand by developing wellness methodologies and infrastructure now. This proactive strategy avoids scrambling to develop a worthwhile program when employee wellness matures into a must-have benefit.
Make your case: We can use our employee wellness program as a recruitment tool. Evidence suggests that employees want their employers to take an active role in their health, so if we can show potential employees that we’re invested in their well-being, we’ll gain an advantage over companies offering only bare-bones benefits.
Benefit # 4: Well-being increases adaptability.
Top researchers at Gallup found that employees who are engaged at work and also experience high levels of well-being were 45% more likely than other employees to adapt to change.
Instant communication tools, globalization, shifting responsibilities, and tons of other factors necessitate adaptability in employees at all companies, the big and the small. Programs that boost adaptability stand to benefit any organization.
Adaptable employees don’t waste time freaking out about changes; they simply take a breath and rise to the occasion. Adaptable employees don’t need bosses to outline the steps they need to take; they simply jump in and get the job done.
Make your case: We need to increase our roster of adaptable employees, people who can roll with the punches and shift with changing responsibilities, and it turns out, adaptability can be cultivated.
By implementing an employee wellness program, we can help our most engaged employees adapt to change, increasing their performance and reducing their stress levels.
Benefit #5: Specialized wellness programs provide a solid return on investment.
The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) performed a systematic review of programs that featured health risk assessments with feedback and health education. They found that for every dollar invested in health intervention, employees recouped between $1.40 and $4.60 in avoided medical costs and productivity losses.
Make your case: A systematic literature review from a panel of expert public health specialists suggest that we’ll save more on medical costs and productivity losses than we’ll spend on a solid employee wellness program. Implementing the program could leave us better off than we were before; it could actually save us money.
Benefit #6: Employee wellness programs boost productivity.
According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, when employees leveraged wellness programs to make lifestyle changes, they ended up saving their companies about $353 in recouped productivity—productivity they gained as a result of their newfound wellness.
Make your case: An employee wellness program could save us money in lost productivity. Respected studies indicate we could save as much as $353 per person, per year. We have 571 employees, so an employee wellness program could save us around $201,563 a year.
Benefit #7: Employee wellness programs could elevate company culture.
A Virgin Pulse study found that 85% of employers believed their successful wellness program had a positive influence on company culture.
Company culture comprises tons of variables, and many of them are challenging, if not impossible, to pinpoint. That’s why connecting an uptick in positive culture with a specific action is so significant.
Make your case: Evidence suggests that an employee wellness program could benefit our company culture, and our surveys indicate that our employees are looking for improvements in that area. An employee wellness program could give employees exactly what they want.
Benefit #8: Employee wellness programs could boost market valuation.
In another report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers concluded that:
“This study supports prior and ongoing research demonstrating a higher market valuation—an affirmation of business success by Wall Street investors—of socially responsible companies that invest in the health and well-being of their workers when compared with other publicly traded firms.”
The researchers caution that the link between the wellness programs and market valuation is neither direct or immediate, but they encourage companies to make long-term plans and investments to develop truly effective programs that may one day benefit stock performance.
Make your case: Some studies connect outstanding financial performance to outstanding wellness programs. Wellness programs take time. If we ever hope to cultivate the kind of wellness programs that could infiltrate every aspect of our company and improve our overall performance, then we need to start planning and implementing now.
Benefit #9: Employee wellness programs could decrease depression.
One study from Nutrition found that a specific health and wellness program, the Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP), actually led to decreased depression as an added benefit to improved nutrition.
The researchers used the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) as a measure, and they suggest that in addition to the nutrition factors contributing to decreased depression, the social interaction and positive reinforcement involved in the program may have helped. (This research also suggests that social interaction and positive reinforcement may be yet another benefit of employee wellness programs. See benefit #10 for more information.)
Make your case: Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our employees happier? By offering an employee wellness program, we could help employees fight their depression as they improve their health.
Benefit #10: Employee wellness programs bring employees together and build camaraderie.
By their very nature, employee wellness programs depend on the participation of multiple employees. So no matter what kind of program you choose, it’s guaranteed to bring employees together on some level.
Wellness programs involve shared goals and struggles and maybe even group meetings, support groups. and fitness activities. As employees work on improving their health together, bonding and camaraderie will follow.
And as we mentioned in benefit #9, the social interaction and positive reinforcement associated with group participation in wellness programs can offer valuable, if unintended, benefits.
Make your case: Employees cite “lack of communication in the workplace” as a company problem in our surveys year after year. Implementing an employee wellness program will get people working together toward the same goal—outside of their usual work responsibilities. This would definitely improve company communication, and it would support good health at the same time.
Benefit #11: Employee wellness programs focused on meditation could reduce stress.
Develop an employee wellness program focused on mindfulness, and you could notice a major reduction in workplace stress. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, meditation might help improve anxiety, stress, and depression.
If you’re thinking about implementing a meditation-centric wellness program, then you’re in luck; meditation is a relatively inexpensive and fuss-free art to practice. If you have a light budget, you might be able to implement an employee wellness program using just one quiet conference room and some free guided mindfulness meditations.
Make your case: A majority of workers in a diverse array of jobs report facing lots of work-related stress.
It’s safe to say that many of our co-workers feel stress as a result of things they encounter on the job. Stress isn’t just unhealthy for individuals, but it’s also unhealthy for our company as a whole; it leads to unnecessary sick days, increased work errors, and generally lower productivity.
We could improve multiple aspects of our company performance by offering a wellness program aimed at reducing workplace stress.
Are you ready to make your pitch?
We hope this list provided all the benefits and validation you need to fight for the employee wellness program you want to implement for your company.
In addition to familiarizing yourself with evidence to support your program, we recommend putting together a detailed plan for the program you’re pitching. Why? Once you sell your managers on the benefits of your program in general, they’re going to have a lot of questions on the specific details.
Be sure to have a ballpark budget that outlines the different costs associated with your proposed program.
Leaders will likely bring up workflow as well. They’ll want to know if they need to hire new staff just to manage this program.
Mitigate their fears by offering a detailed breakdown of how the work will get done and who will do it. (An estimate of the weekly hours it might take would be a major bonus.)
You’re going to nail this pitch!
Did we leave out any key benefits of employee wellness programs? Comment to tell us about the benefits you’ve observed.