Return on Wellness: Counting a Strong Workplace Culture Among the Benefits

Return on Wellness: Counting a Strong Workplace Culture Among the Benefits

In the wake of rising healthcare costs, many employers are electing to spend even more on employee wellness programs. In 2013, Great Place to Work saw a surprising 55 of the 100 Best Companies to Work For offer rewards and incentives, from reductions in healthcare premiums, cash bonuses, and gifts and other prizes, to employees who participate in wellness programs, including health screenings, weight loss or smoking cessation programs, or maintaining certain biometric standards.

Staffing firms, which next year must provide healthcare coverage to their contingents or pay penalty, could offset some of those costs by offering such wellness programs to those workers.

Contingents notwithstanding, the business benefits of employee wellness programs are well documented. A study published in the December 2010 Harvard Business Review analyzed wellness programs at several large U.S. organizations, and reported impressive findings — a $2.71 return on every dollar spent on wellness at one organization, a reduction of  a reduction of $1,421 in medical claim costs for wellness participants at another, and an 80 percent decline in lost work days at yet another. The driver of these returns is obvious: healthier employees get sick less often, requiring fewer doctor visits, leaves of absence and sick days. My colleagues and I have seen how wellness programs can have an additional benefit: contributing to the creation of a great workplace culture. Employees at companies with robust wellness offerings feel deeply cared for as people by company management — a key component of respect  — and enjoy a good deal of camaraderie with their colleagues, forming teams to participate in wellness competitions, cooking classes, and more. Employees’ families, and sometimes the community at large, are also invited to participate in wellness events, increasing employees’ sense of pride in their workplace.

Sophisticated wellness programs that can net these types of ROI do require significant forethought and investment. However, kicking off some activities that convey caring can be quickly and easily implemented at both small and medium sized staffing firms. Consider these ideas from some of the Best Companies to Work For:

  • Host Walking Meetings: At small business AnswerLab, the CEO hosts walk-and-talks with employees. These intimate meetings provide employees with access to the CEO to share ideas and concerns in an endorphin-boosting environment.
  • Onsite CSA Deliveries: Many Best Companies to Work For, including Qualcomm, have made their offices a pick up site for Community Supported Agriculture. Employees can pick up their box of fruits and vegetables right at the office, increasing the convenience of healthy eating.
  • Onsite Fitness Classes: The Phoenix office of design firm McMurry proves that you don’t need a gym to work out. Bootcamp instructors are invited to campus to offer classes twice per week, and yoga mats and DVDs are available in their public spaces.

While wellness programs in and of themselves do not create great workplaces, when wellness is done well, it can contribute to the sense of respect, pride and camaraderie that drives positive employee perceptions of the workplace.

Originally published on The Staffing Stream.