Reports are mixed about the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims that corporate wellness initiatives improve employee health and save employers $3.27 for every $1 spent. A contrasting analysis from The RAND Corporation reveals that wellness programs don’t significantly decrease healthcare costs for companies.
I worked as a health coach for Corporate Fitness and Health, a company that creates corporate wellness programs for clients throughout New England. While I agree that there are limitations to the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs, I realized during my tenure that these programs have incredible potential to impact American health.
This is why:
- Population: Today, roughly 63% of Americans are employed. Of those, 80% are working at a desk. This means that 80% of working Americans are sitting for at least half of their awake hours. Add the vending machine around the corner and the monthly employee potluck, and no wonder 70% of Americans are obese or overweight. The key to curbing American obesity might be in the workplace.
- Built-in Messaging: Employees in general (if they want to keep their jobs) show up to the same place, at the same time, five days a week. Talk about your opportunity for messaging!
- Participant Stability: Anyone in health promotion knows that one of the greatest challenges is participant failure to complete a program. Corporate wellness means working with individuals who have greater life stability than unemployed individuals, allowing you to help more individuals reap the benefits of your entire program.
- Motivation: Workplace wellness programs are almost always tied to monetary incentives. Money turns something ethereal like “lose weight” into something tangible like “twenty-five bucks”. I saw employees make significant changes because they were motivated by a healthcare payment subsidy who would never have found the motivation otherwise.
If you are in the field of health promotion and have never considered workplace wellness as an avenue for your skills, you might consider it. There is certainly plenty of room for improvement in this arena, but there is also huge potential to have a real impact on American health.