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Study Finds Employee Wellness Plans Increase Productivity

A recent study conducted by St. John Health found that 76 percent of employers feel it is an employer's responsibility to promote wellness and healthy living practices to its employees, however only 47 percent of the companies/organizations surveyed have a formal employee wellness promotion strategy in place.

Previous studies showed that employee wellness programs help companies reduce their health care costs an average of $3.72 for each dollar invested. In addition, companies average $5.06 in reduced absenteeism for each dollar invested in a wellness program.

"Wellness programs offer businesses of all sizes a powerful, proactive strategy for managing health care costs," said Elliot Joseph, president and CEO, St. John Health. "These programs save companies money, boost productivity and motivate employees."

The study found companies with wellness programs mostly focus on keeping healthy food options in cafeterias and vending machines; offering seminars on stress management and smoking cessation; and offering discounted memberships to gyms and health clubs.

"Our study found that small- and medium-sized companies are much less likely to have wellness programs in place," said Darlene Ephraim, director, Occupational Health Programs at St. John Health. "Anecdotal evidence tells us that these employers think formal employee wellness initiatives are too cost-prohibitive or time-consuming."

But that's not the case, she added. Most occupational health specialists are willing to work with employers to customize wellness programs for companies of any size or budget, and will work with the organizations to implement the programs.

The St. John study shows that 76 percent of respondent organizations have not formed a relationship with a local health care organization to assist in coordinating a wellness strategy and its implementation to the company's employees, but nearly 50 percent would be interested in forming such an alliance.

"Rising health care costs are a big concern for companies," said Joseph. "Yet, when businesses promote wellness and healthy living to their employees, they can save money on health care costs and reduce absenteeism. It's a smart strategy."

St. John Health surveyed 200 Detroit-area businesses to gauge their opinion on the topic of employee wellness and to understand current behaviors and practices of local companies regarding healthy workplaces.

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