The Expanding Role of Corporate Wellness

As the name itself suggests, ‘corporate wellness’ is a concept that involves different programs which aim to nurture the well-being of a company’s employees. This concept usually applies to large companies and organizations, although it is increasingly getting adopted by small and medium enterprises as well because the notion of corporate wellness has greatly evolved over the past several years. This is due in part because businesses have come to realize that they can significantly reduce the expenses associated with health care services by simply implementing some sort of employee wellness program. Wellness products, services and programs usually are not only cost-effective for a corporation in the short-term, but also very good long-term investments as numerous studies suggest that healthy employees perform better when compared to their unhealthy counterparts. Therefore when considering corporate wellness it is important to not only look at return on investment (ROI) as it pertains to reduced healthcare costs, but also lagging indicators like the economic benefit of increased employee productivity, as well as reduced absenteeism in the workplace (caused by illness).

Corporate Wellness

Historically there have been barriers to implementing a successful corporate wellness solution. Corporate wellness facilitation such as program management, seminar and campaign creation, as well as reporting and data maintenance have been labor intensive tasks. However, there are a growing set of tools to help businesses more easily set up programs, as well as the advent of less sophisticated programs making it easier for small and mid-sized businesses to offer these types of services.

Online Corporate Wellness Programs

Given the growing variety of different types of businesses and corporations, it should be of no surprise that there are a growing number of different types of wellness programs as well. Some programs, for instance, offer basic advice and guidance over the Internet – employees can access these programs online and self-manage their wellness. These programs usually come with a variety of Internet-based tools that allow employees to calculate various health measures and manage their personal health information in a secure and convenient manner. Features of online wellness programs that might appeal to businesses with tight budgets are the fact that they are highly scalable, as well as updated on a constant basis so that the latest research and findings concerning any health issue are available to the employer’s employee base (this is harder to manage when program facilitation is through printed material such as workbooks).

Incentive Corporate Wellness Programs

Some businesses have started to build fitness clubs within the organization or offer subsidized health club memberships to their employees at a nearby location. In addition to this, backed by the Affordable Care Act (that set up new ways to incentivize healthy habits) many businesses are offering corporate wellness programs that provide their employees economic incentives to stay healthy. These incentives include everything from gift cards for rewarding certain types of behavior to rebates and incentives on insurance for improvements in health. If implemented correctly these type of incentive programs can create a win-win situation: employees stay fit and healthy (and can enjoy extrinsic rewards), while the corporation might notice an increase in employee productivity and a reduction in their contribution to healthcare costs. Sometimes simply teaching people the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not enough, some need extrinsic motivation to sustain their efforts. However, some in the field of corporate wellness (myself included) believe that rewarding healthy behavior with monetary rewards might have unforeseen consequences. Further research on this topic will eventually bring to light whether these concerns are valid.

Bottom-line: The field of corporate wellness is quickly evolving, especially with the advent of new online tools and incentive programs supported by provisions in the Affordable Care Act. These new innovations have the potential to not only allow more businesses to offer corporate wellness to their employees, but also to enhance the effectiveness of corporate wellness across the board. If you have an interest in the future of corporate wellness please connect with me through Twitter at @PerformBetter.