Employee wellness contributes to company wellness

The chair you are sitting in right now is a health hazard.

No really, it is. Sitting in your chair all day is bad for your health (no matter if you exercise or not) puts you at an “increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death.” It even offsets that run you did this morning.

My office recently bought exercise balls to sit on instead of office chairs to try it out. Benefits – you burn more calories, improve your posture and you can bounce on them when a fun song comes on.

I recently heard about a few studies that show that employees with healthier diets and those that exercise are more productive at work. Studies from Brigham Young University, the Health Enhancement Research Organization, and the Center for Health Research at Healthways found employees with unhealthy lifestyle choices (unhealthy diets, no exercise, smoking, etc) were less productive at work. Employees who exercised occasionally were “50 percent more likely to perform at lower levels than regular exercisers”. It also found that employees who ate “little or no fruits and vegetables at work were 93% percent more likely to have high productivity loss.”

Employees are more productive at work when they’re healthy, happier and working out. It also lowers company healthcare costs. — in fact, Ray Merrill, a Professor in the Department of Health Science, at Brigham Young University, which conducted the study, stated that  “health-related employee productivity loss accounts for 77 percent of all such loss and costs employers two to three times more than annual health care expenses. “

This starts to raise the question of wellness programs at the workplace. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to offer a wellness program, pay for gym memberships or pay the premiums on your employees health care since they’ll be saving you money, and MAKING you more money?

International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. (ICE) implemented a wellness program to help combat rising health care costs. The nature of their jobs are high pressure/stress positions, and kept seeing rising insurance claims for “muscular skeletal with the neck and back, diabetes and obesity related concerns” – all lifestyle and stress-related issues that could be corrected with better wellness.

So they built a fitness facility for their 825 employees, sold healthier food options at their cafeteria, and put an on-site health care clinic with a nurse practitioner as a few to start. The result?

Their employees missed work less often because they could visit the NP for less serious illnesses like strep throat instead of going to urgent care, lowered stress levels among employees which in turn lowered turnover, and it also became one of the key features of the company to draw in and retain employees. And most importantly, they saved significant amounts in healthcare costs.

Johnson & Johnson has seen a $2.71 return on each dollar invested in their company’s employee wellness program. Saves everyone money, and a great job perk to boot.

Granted, smaller businesses can’t afford to build their own gym facility or hire a nurse practitioner. But I’ve seen many small businesses pay for employee gym memberships, offer incentives/discounts on premiums for not smoking or meeting BMI and blood pressure standards.

The study also found that employees that felt their work environment was “not supportive of a healthy lifestyle” were also more likely to experience lower productivity levels at work.

It seems to me like a win-win all around. Lower health care costs for everyone, higher employee productivity, and happier employees.

Have you thought about implementing incentives or offer perks/benefits related to employee health? Why or why not? If you have – what results have you seen?

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Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. Absolutely love this article!! =D. This is a great way to earn some brownie points at work!! Lol! =D. Keep these coming.

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