Work isn’t just for work anymore. As a 2017 survey by UnitedHealthcare found, 70 percent of companies now offer on-site wellness programs for their employees—a figure that is continuing to climb steadily.
On one hand this increase is to reduce healthcare costs, since healthier employees means lowered costs. But wellness programs are fast becoming less of a perk than a requirement as workers increasingly expect more out of the workplace.
Corporate wellness programs have gained popularity in recent years as a way for employers to promote the health and well-being of their employees. These programs can take many forms, from offering gym memberships to providing mental health resources.
While there are many potential benefits of corporate wellness programs, such as improved employee health and increased productivity, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as cost and low participation rates.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of wellness programs, helping you make an informed decision about whether implementing such a program is right for your organization.
What is a Corporate Wellness Program?
A corporate wellness program is a workplace initiative designed to improve the health and well-being of employees.
These programs typically offer a variety of resources and activities, such as health screenings, fitness classes, mental health support, nutrition counseling, and stress management training.
The goal of a corporate wellness program is to promote healthy behaviors among employees, reduce healthcare costs for both employees and employers, and improve overall employee productivity and job satisfaction.
By offering wellness programs, employers can demonstrate a commitment to the health and well-being of their employees, creating a positive work environment and potentially attracting and retaining top talent.
Let’s explore the pros and cons of wellness programs:
Pros and Cons of Wellness Programs
Let’s discuss some of the pros and cons of wellness programs to understand it better.
1. Lower Healthcare Costs
Healthcare is expensive—there’s no way around that. Especially if your organization is self-funded, there is a moral and financial imperative to keep your employees as healthy as possible.
According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 60 percent of companies report that workplace wellness programs reduced their organization’s overall healthcare costs leading to a return on investment (ROI) of $1.50 to $3.00 per dollar spent over a timeframe of two to nine years.
The ROI of a full-featured corporate wellness program is clear: Every dollar invested getting your employees healthier equals more dollars in reduced healthcare costs, whether in the form of lower health insurance premiums, direct outlays, or reduced employee absenteeism due to poor health.
2. More Productive Employees
Employees that are fit and well are more productive than those that are not. This is something that we know but it’s backed up by research too. Higher levels of energy, less absence and illness as well as greater engagement all contribute.
Higher employee productivity is measurable. A cost-benefit analysis will establish a return on investment for the employee wellness program. The financial case is an easy one to make.
Employees who participate in corporate wellness programs aren’t just healthier—they’re a lot more productive, too.
Take it from researchers at the University of California Riverside, who found that companies providing employee wellness programs saw a significant gain in productivity among workers.
In a time where the average worker is productive for three hours per day, boosting productivity should be a goal for organizations of every size. There are myriad reasons for low productivity, but physical and mental health top the list.
A wellness program helps their employees stay at the top of their game with daily tips and a fully stocked wellness library. Whether beginning an effective office weight-loss challenge or starting to train for a marathon, a wellness program keeps employees motivated to reach their goals.
3. Happier Employees
Approximately one-third of our lives are spent at work. Don’t we deserve to be happy for those 90,000 hours?
According to a study by Aflac, 70 percent of employees enrolled in wellness programs report higher job satisfaction than those not enrolled. And as APA noted, employees are much more likely to recommend a company that offers a comprehensive wellness program.
Organizations that invest in wellness programs routinely see a major decrease in voluntary employee turnover—a key sign that employees are happy and content.
According to a survey by Optum, the more engaged an employee is with a wellness program, the more likely he or she is to stay with the company.
Features like company challenges and rewards keep employees motivated while building comradery. In fact, 86 percent of Woliba users say that company challenges are their most loved feature.
In a time when millions of employees are working from home, it’s more important than ever to foster togetherness with company-wide wellness challenges. With intuitive management features, you can quickly and easily create company-wide challenges, events, and wellbeing initiatives.
4. More Engaged Employees
Corporate wellness programs have been proven to contribute to more engaged employees. By prioritizing the well-being of your workforce, you create an environment that fosters higher levels of engagement, motivation, and productivity.
Engaged employees are more likely to feel valued, supported, and connected to their work, resulting in improved morale and a stronger commitment to organizational goals.
A comprehensive wellness program can provide opportunities for employees to improve their physical and mental health, manage stress, and enhance work-life balance.
This, in turn, leads to reduced absenteeism, lower turnover rates, and a positive impact on overall employee engagement. Invest in a corporate wellness program today and reap the benefits of a highly engaged and thriving workforce.
Moreover, a customized wellness program that reaches employees at all levels of the organization is neither expensive nor time-consuming. With many employers finding that a tailored approach actually reduces costs while better serving all workers.
5. Improved Employee Health
A broad-based employee wellness program can have a positive impact on the health of employees.
That health can be intellectual, emotional and physical. It can also be social, vocational, environmental, financial and even spiritual health. These 9 dimensions of wellness are about living life to the full.
A lifestyle approach to wellness is about reducing risk factors. So, smoking cessation is a prime example of such a risk factor.
A wellness program can promote healthy lifestyle choices. Abstaining from smoking, a healthy diet, reduced alcohol consumption, and regular exercise.
The result for the individual employee is better health. Longer life and greater quality of life.
Individuals will report higher levels of energy, lower anxiety, and depression. They’ll have better cardiovascular performance and better engagement with life’s activities including work.
6. Reduce Lifestyle Related Diseases
Higher levels of employee health may result in a series of positive outcomes but they also result in fewer negative ones too. Lifestyle-related diseases can fall with a corporate wellness program.
The nature of lifestyle-related diseases is that the behaviors that produce them are difficult to change. Corporate programs help to change these difficult habits and behaviors in a way that is hard to achieve by individual action. Even if individuals know what changes would be good for their health, maintaining motivation is difficult.
Learning and acting together with others is a proven way of sustaining a lifestyle change. A corporate program can bring people together to sustain their behavior change. The social pressure and mutual support help do this.
The result is fewer smoking-related diseases. Less obesity and cardiovascular disease. Fewer mental health issues.
The business impact of healthy and disease-free employees is obvious.
7. Reduce Employee Absence
Reducing employee absences due to illness may be a sensible first target when introducing a wellness solution. The top reasons for absence are pretty consistent. Minor illnesses such as colds, stress-related reasons, and musculoskeletal injuries.
Reduce minor illnesses by activities that boost the immune system. Smoking cessation is likely to be the prime option but exercise, improved diet, and weight loss are also important.
Stress-related absences fall with better general health through exercise and diet. Mindfulness practice such as meditation and yoga help reduce anxiety and depression. These are common symptoms of stress.
Exercise and weight loss can lead to better musculoskeletal health. Pilates can improve core strength and this can reduce back injury and pain.
As many doctors will testify, back pain can sometimes be a surrogate for other stress-related issues. Mindfulness and improved psychological health may be better than physical treatments.
All these interventions can reduce the reason for employee absence. These means you have more continuity with less disruption. The result is a boost to productivity.
8. Meets Employee Expectations
Employees want more from their working life than pay and pension. Generation Y expect ethical conduct from organizations that the previous generations never expected. The ethics of caring for employees is up there with care for consumers, supply chains, communities, and the environment.
These are times when organizations are competing for talent. A reputation for caring for the wellness of employees might make the difference between securing the best talent and failing to attract them. Potential employees can see how well you do this by checking out Glassdoor, the TripAdvisor of the employment market.
Failing to compete for the employees who want a gym on site or shower facilities for people who cycle to work has a downside. You’ll have to offer higher salaries or expect higher employee turnover than your competitors. A great wellness package could be a source of competitive advantage.
9. Increase Employee Flexibility
Engaged employees are more flexible than those that are not. Being light on your feet and responsive to customers depends on flexible, adaptable employees.
When communication is instant, the scale is less important, it’s the speed of action that is the key to success. Employees who are resilient and can take pressure without getting stressed become a powerful resource. Good physical and mental health helps build that resilience.
10. Establish a Positive Culture
Wellness programs can be fun. Engaging in physical activity together such as a park run or a yoga class bring people together and is enjoyable. This is positive for relationships and for the corporate culture.
A positive culture is difficult to establish but this is one of the ways you can do it. It’s not enough to tell people to be positive. It has to be the natural expression of happy people having fun.
A positive culture is an open one, a confident one and one that engages with challenges and change.
11. Improving Mental Health
Wellness programs that recognize that mental health as important can help reduce mental illness at work. The range of solutions includes counseling and other therapies. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi are very popular too.
12. Reduce Workplace Stress
Associated with solutions that improve mental health are those for work-related stress. These can consist of skills-based training. Typical topics include time management, personal effectiveness, assertiveness, and work-life balance.
Some work cultures are not conducive to a healthy work-life balance. Being present at work seems more important than being productive. Sometimes senior executives can model the appropriate behavior.
Improved workplace stress management can reduce absence, improve productivity, employee retention and engagement.
13. Build a Team
Positive and fun workplace activity can promote a team spirit. Shared exercise through sport can be team based and promote cooperation and good relations.
Sometimes the relationships start on the basketball court or in the step class. These can lead to collaboration between individuals and different departments in a work context.
It’s easy to see why playing together makes working together easier. The model for collaborating and coordinating is in the field of sport. That guy in IT who appears to be remote and unapproachable can become a friend and ally through team sports.
This sense of community and share experienced is a powerful one. It’s one that organizations try to establish with team development activities but is hard to sustain. It can come almost as a byproduct of a wellness program.
14. Improve Financial Performance
The human and team impact of wellness programs may be easy to establish but would the chief financial officer feel as convinced? What is the impact on the bottom line?
We’ve already established some key business results. Improved health and less sickness reduce health costs and the cost of absences. Better employee engagement, retention, flexibility and resilience increases productivity.
You can attract the best talent when your wellness program makes your organization a great place to work. All this has a positive impact on sales, costs, and profitability.
In this article of pros and cons of wellness programs, we’ve touched upon the advantages of wellness programs in the workplace. Now, let’s delve into some of the potential drawbacks or cons associated with these programs.
1. Unengaged Employees Are Less Likely to Enroll
If healthy employees stay healthy and sick employees stay sick, you haven’t made a lot of progress.
This is what often happens when organizations bring in the No. 1 requested benefit: on-site fitness centers. Studies tend to show that people who are not physically active see gyms as intimidating.
There’s even a word for it: “gymtimidation.” One study of 2,000 Americans found that as many as half feel the idea of working out around other people to be “daunting,” what with the sheer amount of machines and classes available.
Thirty-one percent simply felt anxious about the prospect of getting into shape. Now imagine working out in front of your coworkers… not exactly a fun idea.
The goal of any corporate wellness program is to bring unengaged employees into the fold. A study by Gallup found that 62 percent of engaged employees feel their work positively affects their health.
On the flip side, the same poll found that barely 22 percent of actively disengaged employees feel the same way. If only your engaged employees participate in a wellness program, you start to see a vicious cycle.
It takes a lot more than a free gym membership to help your workers stay healthy and engaged. If your wellness program caters only to one portion of your organization, it is failing.
2. Wellness Programs Can Be Expensive
While large companies have no problem absorbing the costs of wellness programs, it can be difficult for small and mid-sized organizations with under 1,000 employees. That’s why 51 percent of HR professionals see budget as the No. 1 hurdle to getting a wellness program started.
The good news is that wellness programs do not have to be expensive.
Woliba pricing begins at just $4 per enrolled user, per month, and includes features like group and personal challenges, fitness device integration, daily health pro tips, tailored wellness adventures, personalized education, and wellness videos.
We also offer special pricing for qualified nonprofits and educational institutions, so organizations of all stripes can help get their employees on the road to good health.
3. Managing Wellness Programs Can Be Time Consuming
For many companies and nonprofits, managing wellness programs is a full-time job. From software bugs to confusing interfaces to disorganized workplace integration, too many HR departments are finding corporate wellness programs add stress to the workplace instead of taking it away.
Fortunately, this isn’t always the case. Woliba has revolutionized wellness administration by introducing software with three key components:
- Company Dashboard: HR departments can oversee employee engagement, activity, and wellness data at a glance. Instead of having to pull data from a dozen different databases, the Woliba dashboard provides all the information you need in one accessible location.
- Easy-to-Organize Efforts: Interact with employees on the social feed to create organization-wide events and challenges. Scheduling events is simple and painless with our built-in calendar integration.
- Seamless Automation: Stop wasting time manually typing out organization-wide emails. Woliba automatically schedules and sends reminder emails to engage employees.
As we are moving towards the end of this article and have seen the pros and cons of wellness programs, we came to know that Corporate wellness programs have the potential to provide numerous benefits.
However, there are also potential drawbacks to consider, such as low participation rates and cost. To maximize the benefits of a wellness program and mitigate potential drawbacks, employers should carefully design and implement a program that meets the specific needs and preferences of their employees, while also considering cost and privacy concerns.
Ultimately, a well-designed corporate wellness program can play an important role in promoting a positive and healthy work environment and fostering a culture of wellness within an organization.
How Woliba can help?
As we read about the pros and cons of wellness programs, it’s worth noting that many of the advantages typically associated with wellness initiatives are readily available through Woliba.
Woliba is a versatile platform designed to help organizations effortlessly create and manage wellness programs that prioritize the health and well-being of their employees. With its user-friendly interface and customizable features, Woliba empowers companies to tailor wellness initiatives to their unique needs and goals.
For more information and to get started with Woliba, please contact us.