Do Employee Wellness Programs Increase Productivity?

Industries across the board are incorporating more employee wellness programs into their company culture. But does all this talk of wellness really work? Read on to learn more!


In many ways, companies are reliant on the good health of their employees. For example, absenteeism because of either injury or illness costs US employers about $225.8 billion annually.

Not only that but employers must also shoulder the burden of employer-mandated healthcare. If their employees are sick, then the company’s bottom line will suffer.

It’s no wonder that the corporate wellness services industry has exploded in recent years. In 2016, they earned $8 billion in revenue. Clearly, their services are very much in demand.

But, do they work? In other words, do employee wellness programs have any effect on employee health? The short answer is yes, and, below, we’ll see why.

Read on!

1. Wellness Programs at Work Change Employee Behavior

Ask any public policy expert, and they’ll tell you: getting people to change health-related behaviors is hard. Given the dire statistics, public health policy hasn’t been very successful, either.

In 2012, for example, about half of the adult US population had one or more chronic diseases. In 2014, two of these diseases, heart disease, and cancer were responsible for 46% of all deaths.

Where public policy has failed, employee wellness programs are making inroads. In fact, studies show employees engage in destructive activities (think smoking) less often when in a wellness program. Conversely, they engage in positive behaviors (like exercise) more often.

Again, this pattern is significant, if only because human behavior is so hard to change. In the next section, let’s see the positive results of these changes.

2. As People Change Their Behavior, They Lessen Their Risk of Chronic Disease

In the previous section, we saw how employee wellness programs motivate employees to adopt healthier habits. In doing so, their new, healthier behaviors make it less likely they’ll get chronic diseases like:

  • asthma
  • heart disease
  • obesity
  • cancer
  • diabetes

All of the above conditions are major plagues in America now. And, it’s companies that are shouldering much of the resulting economic burden.

If employees are healthier because of a wellness program, the result will be healthcare savings for the company. That’s a good thing.

In the next couple sections, let’s talk about employee engagement and productivity.

3. Wellness Plans for Employees Increase Their Engagement

We’ve seen above the health-related benefits of wellness programs. It’s interesting that a general wellness culture can also increase employee engagement. Why is that?

Remember wellness programs can motivate employees to change their behavior. These changes lead to better health outcomes. Employees then experience fewer health-related barriers or setbacks at the office.

For example, many wellness programs incorporate mental as well as physical health programs.

If so, employees are given the tools to handle work-related stress better.

Companies that have a wellness culture in place support their employee’s health- and work-related goals. Employees see them as being one and the same thing.

This situation contrasts with an office environment lacking a wellness culture. There, employees might feel they have to choose between their careers and healthy behaviors like exercising more.

When wellness goals become aligned with professional ones, employee engagement increases.

Employees are more engaged with the company’s mission and goals.

They are then likely to stay with the company longer. They are also less likely to be absent.

What’s more, they become more productive employees. Let’s examine that effect in the next section.

4. Healthy Employees are More Productive Employees

What does it mean when we describe an employee as unproductive? The most obvious answer is that they are often absent. Chronic absenteeism is expensive for companies and also means the work isn’t getting done.

On the other hand, it could mean the employee is at work, but the work isn’t getting done well or at all. If the employee isn’t feeling well, it’s impossible to focus.

Both of these situations cost companies money.

What’s less obvious is wellness programs can recoup much of that lost money. We know employees who participate in them change their lifestyles.

They then become better workers and save their employers about $353 per person annually.

These sorts of changes can be tracked and rewarded. To do so, take the time to learn more about this HR program.

In any case, that’s a significant amount of money. It comes in addition to lower healthcare costs and other savings. Let’s talk about those in the next section.

5. Wellness Programs Save Money

It costs money to implement a wellness program. But, the potential savings make the cost worth it. We’ve seen above how more productive employees are cost-effective.

When employees participate in wellness programs, their healthcare bills are lower. Companies pay less for their healthcare, and these savings are passed on to employees.

Studies have verified these positive changes. For example, in one study, a large company with a wellness program saw annual average savings per employee of $565 (this was in 2009). The return on their investment in the wellness program was $2 to $4 spent on the program.

It’s important not to mistake these programs as fluff. As seen above, they provide significant savings for companies. In the next and final section, let’s look at one more benefit.

6. Employees Want Wellness Programs

Many employees now want their employer to support their good health.

Potential candidates are looking for a culture of wellness in their job prospects. They will be demanding wellness programs as part of their benefits packages.

To recruit and retain highly-qualified individuals, companies should begin offering wellness programs now. It will help them gain an advantage over companies without them. As shown above, there are numerous benefits, both for the employer and employee.

Employee Wellness Programs Work

After examining the evidence, you can see employee wellness programs are a worthwhile investment. They manage to change employees’ behavior, thereby reducing chronic disease.

What’s more, they increase engagement and productivity, all the while saving the company money. Because employees want these kinds of programs, it’s a good idea to offer them. After all, you know it will be a worthwhile investment!

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out some of our other ones? We have a broad range of business-related topics. These include business advice and how to increase productivity.

There’s bound to be something that interests you!

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