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The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health – Part 5: Measuring the Impact

July 8, 2013 / Corporate Wellness

The Business of Healthy Employees: A Survey of Workplace Health – Part 5: Measuring the Impact

This past June marked the 5th annual National Employee Wellness Month (NEWM), an annual initiative that helps business leaders learn how companies are successfully engaging employees in healthy lifestyles.

To mark the occasion and help shine a spotlight on the importance of a healthy workforce, Virgin HealthMiles released findings from a survey (free download available here) of nearly 10,000 employees across 1,300 businesses, providing insight into workplace health priorities.

From the employee perspective, the perceived benefits are personal, with 75.5 percent reporting that they have improved physical activity. Additionally, employees report being healthier, happier, more energetic and achieving weight loss goals as a result of participation.

However, what’s important to the employee differs from what’s valued by employers. With 22.1 percent of employees reporting fewer sick days, 29.3 percent reporting improvements in maintaining chronic conditions and 19.4 percent describing lower health care premiums, organizations can take note of significant areas for savings and cost management as a result of wellness programs.

“Successfully engaging employees in sustained healthy lifestyles can have a tremendous impact on business in terms of health care costs, productivity, absenteeism/presenteeism, morale, employee satisfaction and loyalty, and overall engagement,” Virgin HealthMiles CEO Chris Boyce said.

The benefits of wellness for the employees are a good example of positive return on investment for money spent on health and wellness. Considering this, it’s important to note that many organizations still find there are some pros and cons when working to directly measure the effects of wellness.

Overall, 17.1 percent of organizations have been successful in making the business case using the available measurement tools.

“Healthy, engaged employees are good for business — they’re more productive, more loyal and less likely to leave, which greatly impacts the bottom line. It’s great to see employers are linking health and wellness programs and overall employee engagement,” Boyce said.

Measuring health and wellness continues to be a challenge for organizations, as it was in 2012.

“There’s no question that health and wellness programs can drive great benefits. But the way wellness has historically been done doesn’t work for employers or their employees,” Boyce said.

“To truly change lives for good and see the business benefits, employers need to offer programs that are more consumer-focused — ones that meet employees where they are, give them choice on how to participate in ways that work best, and ones that support employees in achieving their personal goals of living a healthier lifestyle. This new approach is proven to boost engagement, long-term success, and drive real, meaningful and measurable benefits for employers and employees alike,” he added.

More consideration on how to meet employees where they are at could lead to better, easier to define metrics for organizations.

Even with the perceived difficulty, many organizations feel they’re able to measure some of the outcomes of health and wellness programs. Perhaps most surprising is how many organizations are working to make the case between health and wellness and employee engagement, with 67.1 percent of organizations exploring the possible connections.

What’s even better is that 64.4 percent are trying measuring the connection between health and wellness and creating a culture of health, demonstrating the belief that wellness programs directly impact a culture of wellness in the workplace.

“Engagement must start from the top, which means each and every CEO should also wear the hat of ‘chief engagement officer,’” Boyce said.

Many organizations are also looking at the direct, tangible return on investment by working to measure the impact on health care costs. Reduction of health care costs and improving on absenteeism/presenteeism may be two of the best ways to determine the direct benefits of investment in health and wellness.

With attention to improving the measurement of wellness, businesses may be able to better address the potential obstacles for wellness programs in their organizations. Unlike last year, budget is not the biggest perceived obstacle to health and wellness programs, but rather measuring the program impact is.

This points to a significant need to improve measuring the impact of health and wellness programs on the organization. However, it’s interesting to note that securing C-level buy-in was reported to be an obstacle to implementing health and wellness programs by less than one in five employers, signaling that C-suite appreciates the benefits of wellness programs being offered. The real obstacle is making the case that resources invested in health and wellness programs are well spent.

Indeed, given the current climate to cut costs and increase profits long-term, reducing access to health and wellness is not a priority, with most organizations (75 percent) reporting that, regardless of increasing costs in health care long-term, companies plan to continue offering either the same, or improved, health and wellness benefits to employees.

In addition, when asked about the strategic direction for their health and wellness benefits, 62 percent of employers surveyed report that their health and wellness offerings are becoming more comprehensive over time.

The benefits gained from health and wellness are worth the time and effort to improve measuring the benefits of wellness and its impact on organization health, engagement, culture and profit.

Does your company currently implement a wellness program? If so, we would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on how it has helped you achieve your wellness goals. Please leave a comment in the section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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