Corporate Wellness Programs
Study reveals significant health benefits of employee wellness programs
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 16:00Using research involving more than 1,400 workers who participated in employee wellness programs, scientists at Henry Ford Hospital (HFH) in Detroit found that the interventions were successful in alleviating a host of stress-related conditions.
Authors of the study noted that chronic neck, back and head pain - often linked to anxiety - is estimated to cost U.S. employers $61 billion annually due to poor productivity.
The researchers began following the workers in 2007. Since then, the scientists observed that the wellness initiatives resulted in an improvement in chronic pain for 76 percent of the study group and a complete elimination of such discomforts for 39 percent of the individuals.
"Chronic pain and stress are intricately related and the importance of stress as a causal and/or aggravating factor in most chronic illnesses cannot be underestimated," says Alba Rodriguez, Ph.D., of HFH. "These group programs have proven to be more effective than other approaches, and are more efficient and less expensive than most one-on-one care, whether conventional or alternative."
Additional findings included a 74 percent reduction in workplace stress, a 50 percent alleviation in stress-related illnesses, such as high blood pressure and gastrointestinal conditions. Moreover, 70 percent of the employees reported that they were able to eliminate their use of pain medications.
UK research finds that large companies are more likely to have wellness initiatives
Tuesday, 02 August 2011 16:00The Department for Work and Pensions conducted a survey of workers to gauge the prevalence of employee wellness programs to use as baseline data for longtime measurement of workplace health.
The research revealed that employers at large organizations - private or public - tended to be more likely to offer employee wellness programs and other health initiatives, compared to companies with fewer than 250 workers.
Nearly 40 percent of the volunteers said they had access to occupational health services through their employer. An additional 32 percent said their organization provided tools and resources for stress management, a perk that was more prevalent in the public sector.
A total of 84 percent of the respondents said their employer provided more than 20 days annually of paid sick leave, making the initiative the most commonly offered effort toward staff well-being. An estimated 70 percent said their organization had pension plans.
Employee wellness programs have been shown to reduce workplace stress while improving employee performance. Moreover, a healthier staff may mean lower costs stemming from employee health benefits.
Studies suggest companies investing in employee wellness, online and on-site
Sunday, 31 July 2011 16:00Businesses are increasingly investing in employee fitness and wellness programs. A recent survey by the National Business Group on Health indicated some companies were maintaining these programs even while cutting travel expenses and bonuses.
Because healthy employees may be happier and more productive, and are less likely to get sick, employee wellness and fitness programs can have significant benefits. There may also be financial benefits when the time comes to pay employee health benefits costs.
Some initiatives to encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle typically include company gyms, fitness professionals to coach or train employees, a company nutritionist and discounting healthy foods at the company cafeteria. Some companies offer classes or hold fitness competitions to encourage participation.
A 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 74 percent of companies offering health benefits also offered an employee wellness program of some kind, including weight loss programs and on-site exercise facilities.
In 2009 only 58 percent of organizations offered similar initiatives, though the research revealed that the recent increase was mostly in the area of web-based healthy living resources, which went up 15 percent. The survey also reported that only 10 percent of companies offering health benefits and wellness programs incentivized employee participation.
These programs may have the additional effect of decreasing job-related stress or minimizing its negative impact on employee performance.
Employers name wellness incentives as biggest perk of healthcare reform
Monday, 25 July 2011 16:00Come 2014, businesses will be allowed to offer incentives to employees of up to 30 percent of their total healthcare premiums, a 10 percent increase from what is permitted now, and employers appear to be quite pleased.
A total of 37 percent of respondents of a Lockton survey reported that the increase in the incentive cap may be the most beneficial aspect of the impending healthcare reform.
"The difference in cost for health insurance for an employee with this incentive can be thousands of dollars annually, depending on the total premium cost. So for the employer, this is a true benefit of the health reform law," said Ian Chuang, Lockton medical director and member of the Health Reform Advisory Practice.
It is likely that company administrators have come to realize that improving employee wellness leads to lower costs stemming from employee healthcare benefits and improved employee performance.
Chuang noted that the employee wellness programs that organizations choose must be specifically targeted toward promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing disease.
Extensive research has suggested that stress is linked to a host of mental and physical illnesses. As a result, employee wellness programs that focus on stress relief may end up saving companies money and boost their bottom line.
Insurance carriers may present barriers to ROI on wellness programs
Sunday, 24 July 2011 16:00When considering implementation of an employee wellness program, business administrators often research the return on investment (ROI) that their company is likely to see as a result of improved employee health.
Herein lies the problem for small businesses: Community rating in a small-group market can degrade ROI, since the insurers tend to blend a small employer's rate with that of the rest of their clients, according to BusinessInsurance.com.
For example, a 55-person company that achieved two to one ROI with their wellness program did not end up with significant employee health benefit savings until they became self-insured, the website reported.
"Their calculations were based on the assumption that they were 100 percent credible but, to the carrier, they were only 30 percent credible. So it only affected 30 percent of the renewal calculation,” said Chris Hogan, president of an Arizona benefit consulting firm, quoted by the news provider. “That's why more employers don't implement wellness programs.”
The Wall Street Journal has reported that wellness programs are often very beneficial for small businesses. Additionally, a small staff may be easier to reach, making the initiatives more effective.
The news provider recommended that these companies check their insurance claims data to determine what efforts may be most needed among a staff.
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