According to a recent Forbes article written by David Shaywitz, he recommended that employers should focus on financial metrics when determining whether or not to invest in wellness programs. His argument is that “most wellness programs are offered as a benefit to employees, something HR provides to help recruit and retain workers.”
From that perspective, a dental and vision plan would be no different than a wellness program.
Has Mr. Shaywitz missed study after study discussing the costs associated with “presenteeism” or “absenteeism” due to employees poor health and wellness?
Most of those reports indicate that these two factors alone contribute to over $34 billion in lost productivity.
Later in his article, Mr. Shaywitz shares, “…let’s reserve our highest praise for behavioral health companies that not only promise more productive employees and reduced healthcare costs…”.
As it turns out, the Forbes writer is also an employee of a biopharmaceutical company in California who apparently would rather see employees dependent on pills from Big Pharm for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, weight management, stress, anti-depressants, etc., then become fit and well.
There are many rules of thumb in the industry regarding health and wellness programs. We’ve heard CFO’s discuss a 300% return for each dollar invested in employee wellness programs. These workplace programs can improve employees health through smoking cessation, weight loss, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, along with stress reduction at work and home.
What’s the value of happy and content employees?
In Dr. Noelle Nelson’s book Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, she cites a study from the Jackson Organization, a survey research consultancy, since acquired by Healthstream, Inc., which shows:
Companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity & assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t. When looking at Fortune’s ’100 Best Companies to Work For’ stock prices rose an average of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the overall market.
As more of the Affordable Care Act gets implemented and the personal mandate takes effect, we will see a shift coming toward individual responsibility for health and well-being. Reducing the number of preventable diseases will be the goal of Americans, and the workplace will play a vital role. An emphasis on preventative care and exercise prescriptions will be the topic within healthcare forums.
The days of Big Med and Big Pharm making money on sick people are coming to an end. Our medical centers will be financially motivated to make their surrounding community better fit. Health centers will see profits by keeping people out of the hospital versus filling their hospital beds with people suffering from preventable diseases.
A broad cultural shift toward wellness is coming.
Despite of Big Pharm’s continued efforts of pushing their prescription drugs on Americans, the cultural shift toward being personal responsible for our own health and well being will only gain strength.
Just like with Big Tobacco’s expensive marketing campaigns, expect the same from Big Pharm as more people choose to eat healthier and exercise versus swallowing another pill.
Our corporate leaders need to invest in workplace wellness programs and they’ll see long term financial rewards by improving the happiness and well being of their employees.