In a perfect world, your participants are all actively involved in your wellness program. They salivate over the incentives you've rolled out to encourage wellness. And nearly everyone is health conscious, physically active, and engaged in your wellness initiatives.
It's the kind of environment wellness coordinators and C-suite executives hope to create with every dollar spent on wellness. The idea prompted researchers to find out what cost savings could be achieved if wellness program participation was near-perfect and participants achieved ideal biometrics. To do this, they examined data from the Global Burden of Disease Study and Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys.
They found that when people were more active, ate more vegetables, didn't smoke, maintained a healthy weight, drank little or no alcohol, and had normal measurements for blood pressure and cholesterol, an employer would see an 18.4 percent decrease in medical costs.1
Take a look at the aggregate results of your most recent health risk assessment, and you'll probably be reminded that there's room for improvement. Not every participant is going to be a model of good health. But striving to increase engagement and lower health risk factors is a worthy goal for any wellness program.
"When individuals take a personal interest in a wellness program and choose to participate, everyone wins," says Wellsource Founder Don Hall, DrPh, CHES. "As people learn to eat more nutritious foods, become more active, and cope better with stress, their quality of life improves. They feel better about themselves, and they enjoy better physical and mental health."
When this happens across an organization the cost savings and ROI can be substantial.
- Miss less work due to sickness
- Have lower turnover rates
- Cost their organizations less for health care
- Have more positive attitudes about work
Companies that have implemented high-performing corporate wellness programs have annual healthcare costs that are $1,800 less per employee, according to another study.2 And if healthy habits aren't encouraged and rewarded, lost productivity due to poor health can cost companies a lot. Studies have shown that the average estimated cost lost to productivity from poor health practices is over $3,000 per employee.3
If your wellness program is relatively new, or you've rolled out a new initiative, aim to achieve a 30 to 50 percent participation rate early on. But don't give up on a wellness utopia where participation is near 100 percent. Many organizations see participation rates of 70 to 100 percent as their wellness programs develop. Look for ways to engage your population, reward them for making healthy choices, and encourage them to stick with it. That's where the greatest cost savings and health improvements will come from.
- Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2013.
- Strategic Finance magazine. 2010.
- Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2009.