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chief operating officer of the Self-Insurance Institute of America, an association
based in Simpsonville, S.C.
One of the fastest-growing trends in
workplace health is the standing desk,
SHRM found, with 44 percent of organizations offering it, compared to 13
percent in 2013. Such equipment, which
allows workers to stand while they work,
aids both mental and metabolic health, say
So, is all that effort worth it? Yes, HR managers and economic experts say, but perhaps not in immediate monetary terms.
Companies spend an average of $742 per
employee per year on wellness, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.
Employers and employees say the programs
improve workers’ health. But direct savings
for employers are difficult to quantify.
Leaders of organizations with knowledge of their return on investment reported
a return of $1-$4 for every dollar spent,
according to the IFEBP survey.
In recent years, though, companies
say that cost savings are not really what’s
motivating them to implement holistic
health programs. Three-fourths of organizations promote wellness to improve
overall employee satisfaction and well-being, with just 25 percent hoping to
reduce health care costs, says Julie Stich,
CEBS, associate vice president for content
with IFEBP in Brookfield, Wis. That’s a
big turnaround from the 1980s, when saving cash was the main driver.
Instead, employers today use wellness
programs to recruit and retain employees,
as well as to improve their productivity.
“There are only so many levers you can
pull to slow your medical cost trend,”
Sardella says, noting that medical inflation is higher than consumer inflation.
“It’s a really [long-term] investment. You
just can’t make people healthier overnight.” But, she asks, don’t wellness programs make employees more productive,
focused and engaged at work? In other
words, these efforts give employees a sense
of total well-being.
Susan Milligan is a freelance writer based in