By Ed Coates, Senior Manager of Benefits and Compensation, Texas Mutual Insurance Company
Unhealthy habits can affect a person’s quality of life and general feeling of self-worth, which can in turn affect their work performance and motivation. From an employer’s perspective, an unhealthy worker can result in increased health care costs and workers’ compensation claims, as well as decreased productivity.
With corporate wellness programs, employers encourage a healthier lifestyle among their employees, which can reduce health care costs and workers’ compensation claims while increasing on-the-job efficiency and employee morale. To encourage participation in corporate wellness programs, companies should show employees the value of the program and encourage them to take advantage of the resources that are provided. Companies can also offer incentives to encourage employees to utilize the wellness resources provided and to adopt healthy habits. Potential incentives can include reduced health insurance costs, additional time off or prizes—all designed to improve personal health.
Texas Mutual Insurance Company, the leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance in Texas, has a long history of supporting wellness at work. It provides a variety of wellness tools and resources for its employees to reduce health risks and promote healthy behaviors, including free on-site fitness centers, weight management classes, tobacco cessation programs, diabetes prevention and control programs, and wellness contests with rewards. We also provide financial rewards to employees who actively participate in the program and meet certain health criteria. Based on biometric data, employees are assigned a health score that indicates an overall state of wellness. Employees whose health score falls below the established threshold pay a higher premium but have the opportunity to receive a refund if improvements are made or certain activities are completed. These programs have resulted in a number of positive outcomes, including an estimated health plan cost savings of approximately $3,700 per employee in 2015.
Through this program’s success, Texas Mutual identified several components that are critical to a successful wellness program, including:
Executive and management support
- Leading by example
- Encouraging participants
- Promoting an overall culture of wellness
- Advance notice of program features
- Sharing success stories
General benefits that are associated with a successful corporate wellness program include the following:
Stress reduction. Job stress can influence health more than financial or family problems, often causing physical, emotional or psychological pain. Yoga, walking classes, meditation and physical activity are common ways to reduce stress, and wellness programs can provide those opportunities for stress relief.
Improved health and morale. Companies that have an on-site gym or provide fresh fruit for their employees make healthy tools more accessible during a busy workday. When employers provide wellness tools that are practical to implement, it results in improved health and morale among workers.
Reduced health care costs. Unhealthy employees can be a burden on health care costs for a company. According to Aon Hewitt, unhealthy behaviors such as smoking and poor diet cause chronic conditions that account for 80 percent of total costs for all chronic conditions worldwide. Wellness programs provide employees with tools to reduce health risks and the knowledge to make healthier choices. A 2012 meta-evaluation of studies on wellness program effectiveness found that wellness programs reduce health care costs by an average of 24 percent.
Workers’ compensation costs. A 2007 study of Duke University employees showed obesity had a significant effect on the cost and duration of workers’ compensation claims. The Duke University Medical Center analysis found that obese workers filed twice the number of workers’ compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from those claims, and lost 13 times more days of work from work-related injuries or illness than did non-obese workers.
Appeal to potential employees. Prospective employees often look at the pay, vacation, and benefits a potential employer offers when considering a position. As our society becomes more health conscious, wellness programs are a benefit that more candidates are beginning to consider as part of the overall package a company offers.
Reduced absenteeism. The improvement of an employee’s overall health often results in less sick time needed. A 2012 meta-evaluation of studies on wellness program effectiveness found that wellness programs reduce sick-leave absenteeism by 25 percent.
Increased company loyalty. Retention of key employees is vital to continued productivity and success at a company. Providing a corporate wellness program can help current employees feel more valued while also giving them the tools they need to stay well and on the job. A wellness program rewards employees for hard work and lets them know that the company recognizes the importance of its employees’ health.
Source: Texas Mutual