As workers' comp and healthcare claims skyrocket out of control, companies are looking at every management option. Employee wellness programs got their start in the '70s when companies like Coors and Levi Strauss began offering in-house fitness centers, wellness seminars and incentive programs. Today, not only are wellness programs commonplace, but companies are reporting substantial financial rewards resulting from their ongoing commitment to wellness promotion. From reduced workers comp claims to improved employee morale, the benefits abound.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSD) account for 34 percent of all reported workplace injuries and illnesses. These cost businesses more than $15-$20 billion annually in workers' compensation. But several companies reported grand claims reductions after implementing an employee wellness program. Allied Materials in Santa Clara, CA reports a 65% reduction in on-the-job sprains and strains after they initiated 5- minute stretch breaks twice a shift among clean room workers. (Wall Street Journal, 5/1/00) UC Davis cut workers comp and sick leave costs by 39% after incorporating a series of strength training exercises into its employee's eight-hour workday (remaining statistics from IHRSA, International Health & Racquet Sports Club Assn., as reported in the Kalamazoo Enterprise, February 2003)
Steelcase reported that medical claims costs were 55% lower for corporate fitness program participants than non-participants. Coors Brewing Co. saved $1.4million over six years from lower health care costs as a result of implementing a corporate fitness program. Health care costs dropped about 10% over five years for Pitney Bowes after implementing a wellness program.
We live in a stressful world. In a survey by Northwestern Mutual Life, 40% of workers claim their job is "very or extremely stressful." The Families and Work Institute reports that 26% of workers reported they are often or very often burned out or stressed by their work." When Yale University surveyed employees, 29% reported feeling "quite a bit or extremely stressed at work." (NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) Workplace stress either directly or indirectly contributes substantially to healthcare costs. Healthcare expenditures are nearly 50% great for workers who report high levels of stress (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine). Wellness programs are a stress reliever.
NASA found participants in an exercise control program had improved stamina and work performance, enhanced concentration and decision-making powers. The efficiency of average workers decreases 50% for the final 2 hours of the working day, while exercisers worked at full efficiency all day. This amounted to 12.5% increased productivity.
Toronto Life Assurance found that employee turnover during a 10-month period was lower for fitness program participants than non-participants - 1.5% vs. 15%.