Keeping employees healthy is a key strategy of many businesses. The reasoning behind wellness programs is to curtail the ever-rising healthcare costs.
Creating incentives to improve employee health through exercise and a healthy lifestyle has been proven to lead to higher employee morale, enhanced productivity, and lower healthcare costs.
Employees spending eight to ten hours indoors behind a computer on a daily basis can be energy zapping. It also can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can lead to obesity and a host of chronic illnesses. According to a report in Corporate Wellness Magazine:
- Obesity is one of the root causes of chronic disease, accounting for nearly 10% of the amount that the U.S. spends annually on healthcare. A recent study found that obesity-related health spending reached $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago.
- Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have risen from $5,791 in 1999 to $13,375 in 2009 (a 131% increase), with the amount paid by workers rising by 128%.
- A recent study shows that if individuals adhere to healthy lifestyle practices (maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, getting regular exercise, not smoking), chronic disease could be reduced by as much as 80%.
Further emphasizing this phenomenon, in an article at Suite101.com Lakshmi Singh notes, “the tired feeling many employees feel in the afternoon is a scientifically researched fact, identified by psychologist David F. Dinges as being a normal part of human energy patterns.” To combat the effects of the 9-5 office job and boost employee productivity, “a refreshing walk in a park, a quick soccer game with colleagues or even a yoga class to stretch and relax those tired, aching muscles may act to stimulate the mind and rejuvenate the body.”
A 2008 national survey by Harris Interactive found that “91 percent of employers believed they could reduce their health care costs by influencing employees to adopt healthier lifestyles.” Along with this, a report from two Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) experts in the July 10, 2008 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine explained that “dangling ‘carrots’ and swinging ‘sticks’ to prod workers to change their behavior and better their health” seems to create positive results.