How much should you budget for an effective, comprehensive employee wellness program? That’s a good question—one that can be difficult to answer because there are many variables to consider including program design, participation rates, technology, staffing, and incentives. An effective employee wellness program will generally cost anywhere from $200-$500 per employee per year.
Wellness program considerations include:
- Will the program be run in-house (which is usually less expensive but takes more time) or by a contract vendor?
- How extensive will follow-up interventions be?
- Will you include health coaching (shown to be very effective in getting people to change)?
- What health screening tests will be conducted?
- What kind of incentives will be provided?
- How will you distribute the cost?
Finding the right program budget for your company will depend on your specific population and desired results. In this article we explain how careful planning, training, and assistance from outside vendors can help you create an effective, easy-to-use, and affordable in-house wellness program.
Trends in Employee Wellness Program Investment in 2023
Employee wellness programs have evolved and expanded over the years and the evidence is clear—employees take fewer sick days, have higher morale, and higher job satisfaction as a result of such programs. It’s no surprise that the average budget for employee wellness programs grew about 22% from 2020 to 2021 and large companies increased their average budget per employee from $230 to $238 in that same time.
So where is this money going? Some trending key areas for corporate wellness programs in 2023:
- Mental health
- Financial wellness
- Mindfulness & meditation
- Stress management
- Flexible schedules including remote and hybrid
- Telehealth options
- Creative PTO policies
To support these areas of employee well-being, companies are implementing programs that include healthcare reimbursements through HSAs and FSAs, retirement plans and life insurance, mental and emotional well-being programs, financial education, health screenings— and health risk assessments.
Components of a Good Wellness Program
Most companies that are serious about managing costs and saving money recognize the need for a comprehensive wellness program that includes:
- An annual health and lifestyle assessment.
- Encouraging employee participation in health improvement programs.
- Motivational activities and incentives for participation.
- Frequently engaging health communications.
- Health tracking tied to incentives, recognition, and rewards.
- Program evaluation and outcome analysis.
The key to creating a robust program that meets all of these needs is first gathering actionable data using a reputable employee Health Risk Assessment (HRA). On a per-employee level, HRAs are very affordable—often at a cost of pennies per eligible employee per month. But what is the long-term value of an HRA?
ROI of HRA: Investing in Quality Data Collection to Deliver Value Over Time
A quality HRA can provide the data-driven, actionable insights you need to build a meaningful wellness program, improve population health, and show long-term, measurable ROI. Our systematic review of published studies evaluating the cost-effectiveness of HRAs found that employers save $22.26 in health-related costs over the course of the first year for every dollar they spend on an HRA.
Companies that don’t provide comprehensive wellness programs generally won’t see a positive ROI. And that’s even more the case when your wellness programs are developed without solid, evidence-based data, like that obtained from an HRA. Holding an annual health fair, hosting an occasional health class, or providing printed health information without follow-up are not enough to generate change and keep healthcare costs from climbing.
To create a comprehensive wellness program and show savings from that program, it’s essential that organizations first gather actionable data about their population. Then, the organization can use that data to create programs catered to their population’s needs and routinely evaluate the data to show areas of success and identify gaps in their programming.