Wellness Programs & Mid-sized Businesses

Dustin Staiger

Healthy employees cost you less–that’s the conclusion of Harvard Business Review’s recent investigation of companies who’ve implemented wellness programs. Organizations like Johnson & Johnson and MD Anderson Cancer Center, both gigantic facilities with a large amount of employees (and an even larger amount of bills) decided several years ago they’d do something about the rising cost of health care for their employees.

Save Money

How much does your company spend on health care and insurance costs for your employees? If you’d rather spend those dollars on payroll (or just about anything else), a few preventative measures may be all that stands between you and a surprising amount of savings while simultaneously boosting productivity and employee morale and retention.

The percentage of Americans with health problems is increasing, and with it the costs accrued to employers for health care and insurance. As you crunch the numbers and examine your bottom lines, take into account the possibility of saving $6 for every $1 you spend preventing health issues among your employees.

In one company, Drs. Richard Milani and Carl Lavie conducted an experiment with 185 employees consisting of heart rehabilitation and exercise training. After six months, 57 percent of those who’d entered the program deemed at high risk for heart (read: expensive) problems were downgraded to low-risk status.

Healthy employees cost you less

In other words, that costly operation your employee would undergo, the losses you’d accrue while they took time off to recover, and every dollar you’d lose because other employees would have to take on more responsibilities are all erased because of one simple program. Multiply that effect by every employee you have who might ever have a health problem and the possible ROI adds up quickly.

In case those numbers seem too fleeting, the study discovered the cost of health care among those 185 employees, compared to the previous year, went down $1,421 per person. A control group conducted at the same time saw no such improvement or decreases in costs. Company-wide wellness may not have been taught in business school, but the tangible value of its implementation is stunning.

Boost Productivity 

 After MD Anderson spent six years investing in its wellness program, insurance claims for employees had decreased 50 percent. At the same time, the amount of sick (read: no work getting done) days decreased by 80 percent. Think about the last 10 sick days taken by anyone at your company and picture what it might have been like had eight of them never happened. Would those who work in those employees’ departments have gotten more work done? Wouldn’t tasks have gotten done faster? Your individual and overall productivity may very well be in dire need of improved employee wellness.

Midsize companies need wellness just as much, if not more than huge organizations with more resources

One might pass off MD Anderson’s results on the sheer size of their operation, but midsize companies need wellness just as much, if not more than huge organizations with more resources. At a recent Institute for HealthCare Consumerism panel, Jessica Saperstein, division vice president of strategy and business development for Automatic Data Processing, said, “Our research shows a 168 percent increase in health insurance premiums between 1999 and 2011, which places tremendous pressure on midsized companies already struggling to grow in a challenging economy.” In other words, the difference between a company that survives a rocky economy and one that folds amid decreased productivity may very well be the initiation of company-wide wellness.

Improve Morale & Retention

After making simple changes to incorporate wellness into day-to-day operations, companies like software firm SAS Institute saw their voluntary attrition rate decrease to only 4 percent. Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health conducted another study that discovered company turnover rates after wellness implementation went from 15 percent to 9 percent.

With an increasing amount of work-related stress and work climates often being blamed for declines in health, the opportunity to boost morale by helping your employees live healthier lives or experience healthier office environments will ensure your best people actually want to stick around


Harvard Business Review


Institute for HealthCare Consumerism