Workplace Wellness Program – Case Study
In 2015, more than 80% of U.S. employers offered an employee wellness program as a benefit to help employees lose weight, improve chronic health conditions, stop smoking or make other healthy lifestyle modifications. Though definitions of workplace wellness programs have varied, in 2012, a comprehensive review of workplace wellness programs defined a workplace wellness program with the following statement:
Broadly, a workplace wellness program is an employment-based activity or employer sponsored benefit aimed at promoting health-related behaviours (primary prevention or health promotion) and disease management (secondary prevention).
It may include a combination of data collection on employee health risks and population-based strategies paired with individually focused interventions to reduce those risks.
A formal and universally accepted definition of a workplace wellness program has yet to emerge, and employers define, build and manage their programs differently.
Some employers created their own programs, but many used third-party wellness vendors. By 2014, the industry had grown rapidly, and some of the programs had become highly customized.
Programs varied in their goals, scope, cost, and use of incentives. Extrinsic and Intrinsic Incentives were used to encourage eligible employees to take part in available workplace wellness programs. In 2015, one study indicated that it was important and most successful to provide positive, visible rewards related to healthcare to sustain employee engagement.
Some companies that had heavily invested in employee health had seen significant returns. Johnson & Johnson (J&J), a medical device, pharmaceutical, and consumer packaged goods company, had made employee health and wellness a priority for decades. The company also evaluated many of its wellness investments, which cost over $60 million per year by 2014.
In 2014, J&J’s “Culture of Health” 12-program framework included:
- a tobacco-free workplace
- free health profiles
- an employee assistance program
- medical surveillance
- physical activity
- health promotion
- stress and energy management
- cancer awareness, HIV/AIDs awareness
- healthy eating
- modified duty/return to work, and travel health
All global locations participated, though program content was customized by location and culture.
Health tools included:
- prevention-focused education
- rewards for healthy behaviours
- workplace environments that made it natural for employees to engage in healthy behaviours
J&J began to collect data on health-related savings from their investments in wellness programs as early as the 1990s. In 1995, medical claims for around 19,000 U.S.-based employees who participated in the Health & Wellness program showed an average total savings of $224.66 per employee across all expenditure categories, with savings becoming more significant over time. A separate study analysed employee health risk and cost data from 2002-2008. Researchers found that the average J&J employee had a lower predicted probability of being at high risk for:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- poor nutrition
- physical inactivity
- tobacco use
In the time period studied, 2002-2008, J&J’s medical spending grew at a 3.7% lower annual rate than at comparable U.S. companies.
Resource: Harvard School of Public Health May 2016
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