While workplace health programs are frequently tied to insurance costs, making a dent in the per-person health care spend is becoming more and more difficult thanks to rapidly rising prices and short tenures of new employees. But the benefits of wellness programming go way beyond a line item on the income statement.

1. Employees feel valued.
There’s a benefit in trying to help people lose weight or stop smoking, but drumming up participation can be challenging. Some employees may even feel stigmatized by such programs. Broader offerings like nutrition education, meditation classes, nap rooms, or even something as simple as creating a fun spot to relax in can have a significant impact by engaging more people.

“A hangout space with a human-sized chessboard, like one of our clients has, isn’t something that you could calculate a return on investment for, but those kinds of offerings still provide value to employees,” says Chris Sherry, senior director of account management at EXOS. “Employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work. They want to feel appreciated.”

2. Company performance rises.
A large 2016 Gallup study found that companies with higher employee engagement are more successful, have less turnover and absenteeism, and experience fewer safety incidents. There’s a direct relationship between employee health and engagement.

Your wellness program can affect everything from employee morale to the success of your recruiting.

Employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work. They want to feel appreciated.

3. Recruiting is easier.
Companies that don’t offer wellness programs are at a competitive disadvantage, Sherry says. Job seekers, especially millennials, want to work for companies that truly care about them as people, not just workers.

“When I talk to students, I tell them you should be asking what wellness programs companies are offering and they should be robust,” he explains. Granted, recruits are aware that there may
be a tradeoff for such cushy benefits in the form of 60-plus-hour workweeks or high-stress jobs, but wellness perks help create some balance.

4. Employees feel connected.
When done right, wellness programs can help bring employees together in a way that’s separate from their job. People respond to the social aspect of these programs.

“For some clients, building community is a goal and it can be measured with self-reported data,” Sherry says.

On the flip side, depending on how they’re packaged, wellness programs can also lead to a sense of exclusion or make people feel judged if they can’t participate for some reason. “Communication about the services and the packaging of the plan is extremely important,” Sherry says. “People want to feel connected and supported.”

Programs that include employees' families have more engagement and benefit for everyone.
Even small changes like offering healthier lunch options can have a big impact over time.
Incorporating activities that bring people together can add a social aspect to your wellness program.

Employees who come to work even though they’re in pain or otherwise not feeling 100 percent are a much bigger drain on productivity than time lost due to absenteeism.

5. Presenteeism goes down.
You may have “butts in chairs,” but that doesn’t mean work is getting done. Employees who come to work even though they’re in pain or otherwise not feeling 100 percent are a much bigger drain on productivity than time lost due to absenteeism.

“Are your employees in pain? Are they feeling overwhelmed? Do they feel stressed or have difficulty focusing? These are areas where a good wellness program — via physical activity, mindfulness training, and healthy food options — can make a difference by increasing focus, energy, and creativity,” Sherry says.

6. Families benefit, too.
As employees get healthier or less stressed, they’re more likely to take those changes home. Spouses and kids may feel the impact via dietary changes, less tension in the home, or increased physical activity. A Health Enhancement Research Organization report found that employees were twice as likely to participate in a wellness program if their spouse was included as well. Some companies offer wellness benefits to spouses and children and even allow friends to participate.

7. Even small changes can make a difference.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 50 percent of Americans have at least one chronic health condition.

“By giving employees the tools, motivation, and support, our goal is to stop them from getting to that point,” Sherry says. “Unfortunately, there will always be people who don’t participate fully or at all in wellness programs. But every now and then they latch onto a little nugget of information that they came across, or they get excited about someone who came in to talk. There may never be a turnkey and straightforward path to involving them, but if you can just break through with these small nuggets sometimes, that can be a win.”

Does your workplace wellness program need a small (or big) change? EXOS can help — no matter the size.

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