This past week marked an attention-grabbing headline posing the question: ‘Do employee wellness programs actually work?’ A new study by the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed an employee engagement program BJ’s Wholesale Club ran for a year and a half for 33K of its employees. The results of the study suggested the program did not result in differences in health measures or how much employers spent on healthcare compared with the control group.
We aren’t quite sold.
As Employee Benefits Network shared, “...there are two elements in this assertion that would benefit from discussion: the notion that all corporate wellness programs are the same, and whether the impact of corporate wellness should be assessed as a function of a short-term ROI or a long-term investment in employee health.” - and we couldn’t agree more.
The program BJ’s Warehouse implemented centered mostly around educational content and webinars coupled with basic tracking. We agree education is incredibly important when informing employees about a healthy lifestyle, and a system for employees to track their healthy behaviors can be a great motivator to make real changes. However, if a wellness program centers around education without much follow-through or incentive to actually change, it is likely a program like this will not drive actual behavior change.
A wellness program shouldn’t be a one-off initiative used to check the box for wellness or as a shortcut to immediate ROI. It should be a way to further engrain an employer’s care about its employees’ well-being. When an employee knows his or her employer cares about their wellness - or in other words, when wellness is baked into the company’s culture - it means a lot.
Consider these statistics from mindbodygreen:
A survey by the American Psychological Association showed respondents who had corporate leadership who supported wellness programs could feel the difference in the company culture and experienced:
A higher sense of value in their work (they did their “best at work”) 91% of respondents with corporate leadership who supported wellness programs compared with 38% of those without)
More job satisfaction (91% compared with 30%)
More positive relationships with managers (91% compared with 54%)
More positive relationships with colleagues (93% compared with 72%)
More likely to recommend their company as a good place to work (89% compared with 17%)
These are incredible statistics and show by prioritizing wellness as a main pillar of a corporate culture, enterprises will gain benefits on longer term attraction and retention of talent. And the study about BJ’s Warehouse showed those who engaged with the initiative actually went on to exercise and engage in weight-management programs on a more frequent basis because of the existence of the program.
If your corporation is thinking about a corporate wellness program, first ask yourself - do you truly care about your employees? If so, a wellness program will be valued by your employees.