It goes without saying that the success of a company depends upon the employee productivity.
In the mid 1990’s, Johnson and Johnson’s chairman, James Burke, aimed to increase employee productivity and lower healthcare costs by prioritizing the employee health and wellness. Between the years 1995-2010, Johnson and Johnson’s workplace health program included efforts to increase nutrition education, promote better stress management and weight management, reduce tobacco use and decrease sedentary lifestyle. The end result involved a cessation of smoking by more than two thirds of the employees, along with a reduction of high blood pressure by more than half of the employees and an estimated savings of $250 million on employee healthcare costs over one decade1.
The positive results seen in the Johnson and Johnson workforce along with a constant and alarming increase in employee healthcare costs provides an incentive to investigate not only successful employee health and wellness programs but targeted disease prevention programs as well.
While plans differ in the number and detail of services offered, those with favorable results use evidence-based programming aimed at reducing modifiable risk factors such as diet, inactivity, stress, mental health and smoking, and screen for more objective markers such as cholesterol and blood pressure.
Experience has also identified health education, health risk assessment and individual or group coaching as the top three delivery methods2,3. Personalization of plans is also essential as it allows individuals to feel as though the solution is made for ‘me’ and not simply a “one size fits all” model.
More advanced employee health and wellness programs are now screening for genetic contributors, which aid in improved dietary, exercise and behavior management recommendations, and increase overall engagement. Genetic engagement also provides a deeper understanding of the participant’s behavior, food cravings and predisposition to obesity and insulin resistance.
While at-risk employees will certainly benefit from a disease prevention program, it is perhaps the employer who benefits most. Investing in employee health translates to less absenteeism and increased employee productivity via higher energy levels, mental focus and overall morale.
To be more specific, in 2010, a meta-analysis, which explores the results of multiple studies, determined medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every $1 spent on employee health and wellness programs, and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every $1 spent 2. New research suggests that those employee healthcare savings and ROI can be realized in the first year of participation and does not have to come in three to five years. 4
It is not the responsibility of an employer to improve the health of their employee, however given that employee productivity often determines success and employee health improves productivity, it appears as though the promotion of better health in any capacity should no longer be seen as a nice addition to the workplace, but instead as a strategic proposal resulting in a win-win scenario with an excellent return.