While worksite health promotion and wellness programs have been around for 30 years, Grana says that in the past five years employers have more readily embraced wellness as part of their organizational mission. "Some have tied incentives for participation in wellness programs to their benefit design. Those types of movements have allowed great progress in terms of getting more participation so there is more data, so we can implement more meaningful programs or interventions that address the data," she says.Grana says she is finding C-suites are becoming more receptive toward wellness programs as they demonstrate their value, and as healthcare costs continue to pile up. "It's not just in terms of healthcare dollars. It's also in terms of productivity," she says. "We know people who manage their stress or depression who are healthier are more productive employees. They miss less work and when they are at work they are functioning at a higher level."
Accepting the validity of the wellness movement, and building a wellness movement for your organization are not the same thing, however. "Wellness is not easy," Grana says. "You have to have a trusting culture, you have to motivate employees, and you have the have the administrative and communications support to make these things successful to get the biggest bang for the buck. When you balance it all out employers know it's the right thing to do."
Wellness programs may be the right thing to do for employees, and they may give the folks in HR a higher sense of purpose as they help colleagues enjoy the higher quality of life that comes with better health. But wellness programs will only prosper and proliferate if they're shown to be cost effective. Fortunately, the data is telling us that it's true.