Workplace wellness programs diagnosed as robust nationwide | Crain's Connecticut

Workplace wellness programs diagnosed as robust nationwide

At the end of the month that began with New Year’s resolutions about diet and exercise, it is perhaps reassuring to discover, in industries as diverse as travel, insurance, hospitality and media, that companies across the country tout health initiatives designed to make their employees feel better — literally.

More than 90 percent of organizations offered their employees at least one wellness initiative in 2017, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. Health-related programs like these indeed provide a benefit; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that companies lose around $225 billion per year in productivity due to absenteeism.

Although the return on investment for corporate wellness initiatives is difficult to measure because of the challenge of matching health data with productivity statistics, it seems clear that attracting and maintaining talent is eased by the offer of programs aimed at helping employees increase healthy choices and decrease their stress levels. In short, such initiatives go a long way toward making employees feel their company is invested not only in its products but in them.

Companies hope to bring down healthcare costs such as those for treating diagnosed diabetes cases, which reached $245 billion in 2012, the latest year available for that statistic. To reach this goal, businesses offer their employees an array of wellness- and health-related initiatives that include everything from the more-common company-wide weight-loss contests and stop-smoking sessions to benefits such as onsite meditation rooms, bicycle-sharing programs and skin-damage screenings, among others.

Here are some ways companies and business across the country are resolving to help their employees achieve a state of wellness — and well-being:

Industry initiatives

  • In the desert tourist mecca of Las Vegas, the hospitality industry understands that its employees’ health risks don’t take vacation. Most large businesses in the area offer company-wide wellness programs along with their employer-subsidized health insurance plans.
  •  Connecticut-based Aetna insurance, one of the largest U.S. healthcare providers, has offered wellness programs for the last 15 years. In 2018, Aetna plans to give away 500,000 Apple Watches to qualifying customers after a successful pilot program with its own employees to improve fitness.

Programs and activities

  • The Phoenix-area based Salt River Project offers diabetes-awareness campaigns for workers this year, including a test that can flag those at risk for the disease.
  • Greater fitness is a wellness goal for many companies, including MTM, based in the St. Louis area, which sponsors a bike-sharing program.
  • For a number of executives in Portland, walking meetings and discussions while bicycling, hiking or being active increasingly have become a great way to think out loud with colleagues and to connect with potential clients or partners.

Resources to rely on

  • The Wellness Council of Indiana, located in Indianapolis and operated by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, gives guidance to companies in the state that are looking to implement health and wellness programs for their employees.
  • To help lower the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, the American Heart Association provides companies all over the country, including some in Texas cities, such as Houston, with free tools to monitor heart health.

Buildings and grounds

  • “Florida is a booming wellness market,” says Susie Ellis, the chairman and CEO of the Miami-based Global Wellness Institute. “It’s the uncontested world leader in developing new wellness communities and real-estate concepts.” 
  • Rachel Gutter, chief product officer at the International Well Building Institute, says that Silicon Valley companies — perhaps not surprisingly — are “out in front” on the architectural Well Building Standard certification.
January 30, 2018 - 9:29pm