employee wellness

Employee Wellness: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Did you know that the majority of global employers offer some type of health promotion strategy? That’s according to research done by Sam Ho with United Healthcare, that estimates 70% of employers offer wellness programs.

Employee wellness programs are designed to support the physical and mental wellbeing of staff, both inside and outside of the workplace. Employee wellness programs are becoming a priority for many companies across the globe, and have been shown to increase happiness and productivity for workers who have access to these programs. Read on as we explain in further detail what exactly employee wellness entails and why it is so important.

Smartway2 enables you to implement hybrid working with ease. To see for yourself how to create a touchless, on-demand, adaptive workplace, book a demo.

The Benefits

Let’s begin with why employee wellness programs are so important. To better understand the “why”, we need to look at the benefits of incorporating a wellness program.

Emerald Group Publishing, a publisher of academic journals and books in the fields of management, business, education, library studies, health care and engineering, shares the following 5 key benefits of employee wellness programs:

  • Reduced Costs
  • Reduced Stress
  • Greater Productivity
  • Increased Morale
  • Improved relationships

Dr Steven Aldana, CEO OF WellSteps, an employee wellness solution company, compiled a list of “The 7 Best Reasons to Have a Wellness Program.” Please note there are some duplicates with the above list from Emerald Group Publishing.

  • Wellness Programs Improve Employee Health Behaviors
  • Wellness Programs Reduce Elevated Health Risks
  • Wellness Programs Reduce Health Care Costs
  • Wellness Programs Improve Productivity
  • Wellness Programs Can Decrease Absenteeism
  • Wellness Programs Can Help Improve Employee Recruitment and Retention
  • Wellness Programs Build and Help Sustain High Employee Morale

The Stats

A lot of research has been done to show why employee wellness programs are an important component of a healthy lifestyle. We’ve taken the time to dive into the research and are sharing some key findings with you.

The Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower wellness worldwide, released a comprehensive wellness report in 2016 written by senior research fellows Ophelia Yeung and Katherine Johnston. One notable statistic Yeung and Johnston referenced in the report included the following information, “In the GWI-EDH survey, U.S. workers reported that when they feel physically or mentally unwell, it affects many aspects of their work performance, including their ability to get work done (62%), their engagement in work (63%), and their motivation to do the job well (62%).”

Andrew Grove, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Employee Benefits Consulting Division, authored an informative piece for SWBC (Southwest Business Corporation), a financial services company providing insurance, mortgage, and investment services to financial institutions, businesses, and individuals, entitled “10 Stats That Will Make You Consider a Corporate Wellness Program.” Grove highlighted the following 10 items: 

  • 86 million adult Americans have prediabetes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • 34.6% of U.S. adults are obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • 19% of U.S. adults currently smoke (America’s Health Rankings)
  • 90% of Americans eat more than the recommended amount of sodium for a healthy diet (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • By 2030, half of all American adults in the U.S. are expected to be obese (Fitness.gov
  • Obesity-related illness costs approximately $190.2 annually (Institute of Medicine)
  • By 2018, it is estimated that obesity-related healthcare expenses will cost the U.S. $344 billion annually (Fitness.gov)
  • A person with diagnosed diabetes spends approximately $13,700 annually on medical expenses (Diabetes.org)
  • Medical costs decrease approximately $3.27 for each dollar a business spent on wellness programs (2013 Aflac Workforces Report)
  • Companies that implemented a wellness program experienced a 28% reduction in employees calling in sick (Institute for Healthcare Consumerism™)

COVID and Mental Health

Employee wellness programs have only increased amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where special attention has been paid to physical and mental health after many employees were forced into a remote modality. Dana Wilke, online manager/editor of employee relations at  SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), wrote an article that includes the following notable statistic: “mental health and well-being have dropped a staggering 33% since the pandemic began, according to a survey conducted in August by Hibob, an HR services company based in New York City.”

Wilke’s article continues on to say, “Since the start of the pandemic, 49% of employees reported having less energy for nonwork activities, 42% less interest in socializing with friends, 42% more trouble sleeping, and 33% more alcohol or substance use than usual, according to the Limeade survey, released Oct. 12.”

The stats reported by Wilke are just a sneak peek into the dark toll that the pandemic has had on mental health, which is why wellness programs have become even more important than they were before the pandemic.

If you’re looking to learn more about how to boost wellbeing and happiness while working remotely, check out our previous blog post here.

Wellness Program Elements

There are many different types of wellness programs to choose from, so finding the right fit for your company is key.

Howell Business Services, a company that provides integrated employee benefit consulting, implementation and administration shares the following list of elements that you should consider including in a wellness program:

Christopher Hodges’s Journal of Facilities Management article we mentioned at the beginning of this piece has a very interesting perspective of looking at facilities management in a long term view. Hodges writes in part, “One must take a long-term view of most sustainable practices and carefully evaluate green alternatives to traditional construction, operating and maintenance methodologies. Once the life-cycle cost (LCC) and total cost of ownership (TCO) are taken into account, an organisation can develop a much clearer picture of the benefits of sustainable practices. The facility manager is in a unique position to view the entire process and is often the leader of the only group that has influence over the entire life cycle of a facility. Therefore, the facility manager often becomes the proponent of sustainable and green practices. Armed with the proper financial and strategic planning tools, the facility manager can create long-lasting value to the organisation by developing, implementing and maintaining sustainable facility practices.”

Top Facilities Manager Skills for 2021

Writing for Corporate Wellness Magazine, Matthew Owen offers the following advice about employee wellness programs: “An effective wellness program should include several different components. Lifestyle programs to help manage stress, weight, healthy sleep habits, blood pressure or tobacco use shouldn’t be the only components of your wellness program. Consider implementing other unconventional, yet effective, components to support those activities like self-help books, paid time off for annual wellness visits, group health programs, a wellness support hotline or partnering with organizations that can provide nutrition and wellness guidance.”

Smartway2 is accelerating the world’s transition to smarter ways of working. We design, build, sell and service technology platforms that deliver an ever-improving workplace experience in a hybrid working world. The tools we create enable forward-thinking organizations to adopt a data-driven approach to optimizing their workplaces and spaces and all the facilities within them, from rooms, spaces and parking, to equipment, catering and classes.

Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated May 6, 2021