Making Workplace Wellness a Small-Business Priority

Posted on: November 8th, 2012 by Kelli

By Chelsea White, Arogya World Advocacy Intern

Employer – sponsored programs support employees in developing and sustaining behaviors that reduce health risks and increase personal effectiveness – saving employers money on healthcare expenses while simultaneously increasing productivity. Employers are finding these programs to be a win-win, as they help employees live healthier lives while simultaneously improving the bottom line. Unfortunately, many small and medium-sized businesses find themselves unable to afford the initial investment that can earn them these great returns. State–led wellness programs and public-private partnerships could make these programs accessible to small businesses (which employ 55% of Americans, according to the US Department of State).

Programs like Virgin HealthMiles and Wellness@Work have different approaches but the shared goals of increasing employee health and decreasing healthcare costs for businesses. The Virgin HealthMiles program is prevention-focused: encouraging employees to exercise, engage in positive group tasks and competition, and providing incentives to employees for participating in prevention exercises. Employees have flexible prevention plans and are able to record their progress. A public-private partnership in Orgeon, the Wellness@Work program, focuses on health promotion and chronic disease prevention with the goal of providing all Oregon citizens with workplace programs that will encourage them to eat healthier, exercise, and engage in other health sustaining behaviors. From teaching pear-packers to stretch before a shift, to transforming former smoking areas to bicycle storage sheds, Wellness@Work shares success stories that have helped companies save on premiums while creating a healthier and more productive workforce.

Why are these programs so important? According to the New York Department of Health7, workplace wellness programs reduce absenteeism, improve productivity by addressing problems like depression and stress. They decrease healthcare costs, reduce injuries, and improve employee morale, keeping employees healthy so they miss fewer days of work and are more productive overall. Also, they are an added benefit that can entice employees to stay.

According to a study by the Principal Financial Group, for every dollar spent on wellness programs, employers save an average of $3.27 on overall heathcare costs, and absenteeism costs are reduced by an average of $2.73. Over half of the 1,121 participants in the study said they were more productive at work as a result of wellness programs. Also, according to the Harvard Business Review, Johnson & Johnson saved about $250 million dollars over the past decade thanks to wellness programs – experiencing a $2.71 return on each dollar spent. This kind of return on investment can be even more valuable to a small or medium-sized business, where finances are tight and lost productivity can be devastating to the bottom line. What we need to do now is ensure that they can afford to get started. There are many advocacy groups and laws that promote workplace wellness programs for businesses. It is imperative to create programs that enable small and medium – sized businesses to benefit from the positive outcomes of workplace wellness programs.
In early 2012, Arogya World launched the Healthy Workplace Recognition Program in India. Just this week, we announced the final criteria developed in partnership with the Public Health Foundation of India that will promote workplace wellness, help reduce the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), and offer companies a competitive edge via increased talent retention and higher productivity.

Criteria include items such as:
• Banning the use of tobacco and other tobacco products throughout company’s sites.
• Promoting use of stairs and cycles within the campus.
• Encouraging annual health check‐ups for employees.
• Providing affordable healthy food options
• Focus on balancing work/home life

Read the criteria

Speaking at the November 6 launch, Dr Geeta Bharadwaj – Head, Healthy Workplace Initiative, Arogya World, India, said: “As chronic disease and stress levels soar and attrition rates rise, it’s imperative that companies shift from illness containment to wellness promotion. Such a paradigm shift would boost positive work outcomes, improve organizational excellence and promote employee retention.”

Read the press release