Employee wellness programs return on investment: 4 ways wellness affects the bottom line

You’re worried about project deadlines, expenses, facility maintenance, aging hardware and job vacancies. Why should you take on employee wellness—isn’t that something employees should think about on their own time?

Actually, the general trend towards poorer health in the United States may be affecting your bottom line more than you realize. And it isn’t just your employees’ health that impacts you, but also the health of their families. Full-time employees may consume half or more of their daily calories while at the workplace and spend 25% or more of their waking hours at the office each week, so it isn’t hard to imagine that habits instilled or reinforced at the office spill over into the family home.

But you can take simple, affordable steps to change the tide. Here are four convincing reasons to do so:

Reduced health insurance costs

Employers are increasingly concerned about rising health care costs, and the Indiana State Department of Health states that preventable illness makes up 90% of all health care costs. A widely referenced study by a Harvard economist reports an average return on investment (ROI) of more than $3 in health care costs for every $1 invested in employee wellness. Investments may have immediate—and more noticeable—impact on health care costs if your workforce and the families they care for have a high number of existing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. You will see a slower ROI if your workforce is largely comprised of healthy individuals that wish to maintain healthy eating habits and active lifestyles.

Reduced absenteeism

Employees miss work when they or someone they care for is sick. Illnesses, hospital stays, and doctor appointments steal hours from the office. But healthy employees with healthy families have fewer unplanned absences. Studies find that wellness programs can reduce absenteeism by 25%, and the same study referenced above found an additional $3-$5 ROI in reduced expenses from absenteeism for every $1 spent on employee wellness. 

Increased productivity

Healthy eating and regular aerobic exercise reduce fatigue and increase the ability to concentrate. A recent study revealed that employees who ate the recommended 5 or more fruits or vegetables daily for at least 4 days each week were 20% more likely to be productive at the office. Physical activity has been linked not only to improved concentration but also better memory recall, faster learning, enhanced creativity and reduced stress—all of which lead to better job performance.

Increased job satisfaction, employee retention, recruiting

Woman holding a sign that says, "I love my job"

Healthy employees are happy employees. People who experience less stress and are highly productive and successful at work generally report greater job satisfaction than those with more stress and lower job performance reviews. Moreover, studies indicate that 75% of employees want their employer to offer health and wellness incentives. But programs created without employee input are likely doomed to fail, according to statistics. On-site flu shots, fitness equipment, gym subsidies, and even access to dieticians are popular offerings that often get underutilized. Involving staff in the planning of your wellness program helps alleviate barriers to participation.
We also know that changes in individual behavior are not likely sustainable unless changes in workplace culture accompany it. Jump IN for Healthy Kids offers best-practice advice and practical tips for starting your employee wellness program, improving healthy food options and increasing opportunities for physical activity at the office.