Wellness: Global Fad or Benefit for All?

Sick days, low productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, and workflow interruptions are among the indirect costs of poor employee health and it’s the employer who pays for it. In the fight to bolster engagement and reduce these costs, employers are ramping up investment in corporate wellness programs.

Another recent national health survey in Australia revealed that around a third of working-age adults has at least one of eight selected chronic diseases including: coronary heart disease, depression, diabetes and osteoporosis.

However, adoption of workplace wellness programs continue to be slow. Employers are increasingly seeing the business case for optimizing the physical, psychological and social health of their employees, yet slow to adopt plans which can easily provide 300% returns on investment.

The reasons why changes are slow vary widely, but behind closed doors many corporate executives will tell you that they don’t feel comfortable telling their employees how to live, and the more honest response is “We have no idea how to get started.”

Among the organizations currently offering corporate wellness program, two main motivations have prompted them to begin ahead of their peers:

  1. While it has traditionally been focused on minimizing the risk of physical hazards to health and safety in a workplace, workplace wellness is changing to incorporate broader psycho-social considerations and hence overall wellness; and
  2. General human capital drivers, including attracting and retaining talent, promoting engagement, and supporting ideas of broader corporate social responsibility, as well as more direct goals such as improving productivity and reducing absenteeism.

But do employees actually want wellness initiatives at work?

Polls in the United States say yes, and in Australia, the resounding answer is yes.  A 2011 National Workplace Health Index found that health initiatives at work are important to employees:

  • 79.5% of respondents said they would rather be employed by an organization that provides healthy living programs and/or support.  Of these, 29.9% said they would definitely make an employer “one of choice” if they offered these programs.
  • 87.2% of respondents declared their workplace to be of only average health or pretty poor; and
  • 83.5% said their overall health and wellbeing is only “okay” or “could be improved”

As a result of the health and wellness statistics from both the employers and employees, the Australia government is rolling out a healthy workers initiatives targeted at the working population. The initiative is being run in each state and territory, and incorporates a range of incentives for employers to encourage participation in the free programs.

Looking globally and implementing locally has been one of the goals of Muncie Voice. We want to look beyond our community and share lessons learned by our neighbors beyond the borders. If wellness benefits both the private and public sectors, and also improves the overall health and wellbeing of the individual, these commonalities should serve to forge partnerships among both public and private sectors.

When a focus of individual well being is taken by all involved – the individual, government, and public sector, the benefits become magnified.

The only obstruction to the goals of personal well being  and changing our culture toward better health and wellness is the profit motive shared by a few large industries, so we’ll have to address and remove these obstructions one at a time. Profit motive for a select few, or overall wellness for the many is the decision facing us.

Which one shall we choose?

Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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