Promoting Wellness Helps Control Health Care Costs—and more

    Posted by TASC Large Markets on Dec 31, 2019 8:39:03 AM

    The average results of 22 separate studies on wellness programs and healthcare costs found that for every $1 spent on wellness, the company saved $3.27 in reduced health care expenses.


    It’s understandable that most businesses look to wellness programs as a way to control healthcare spending. Rising costs (along with an epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases including diabetes, heart disease and chronic pulmonary conditions) make offering healthcare to employees a challenge. Add in that in 2020, 25% of the workforce will be 55 years old or older and Gen Xers (25-44 years old) are twice as likely to be obese or diagnosed with diabetes than Boomers were at that age, and there’s a real imperative to do everything possible to keep costs down.1

    The good news is that evidence suggests workplace wellness intervention can help. The average results of 22 separate studies on wellness programs and healthcare costs found that for every $1 spent on wellness, the company saved $3.27 in reduced health care expenses.2

    But controlling healthcare costs isn’t the only financial reason for promoting and supporting wellness in the workplace. In fact, employees in poor health can cost companies even more money in absenteeism and presenteeism.

    The hidden epidemics: absenteeism and presenteeism

    Almost 18% of employees have chronic conditions generating 450 million lost workdays with $150 million in lost productivity.3 Presenteeism (when workers are on the job, but not productive) is the factor most often underestimated. Workers whose health and lifestyle related issues impair their ability to contribute can cost companies two to three times more than companies spend directly on healthcare.4

    If you need another reason to make wellness a priority, consider this: it’s already a priority for current and future employees. A full 70% of employees say that employer-sponsored wellness programs are “very important” or “important.”5 The desire for wellness crosses the generational divide. Boomers and Xers rate “lose weight” as their top health goal, whereas Millennials say it’s getting more sleep and reducing stress.6 But all three groups value improved energy and productivity at work, physical activity/exercise, nutrition, and prevention of major diseases such as heart disease and cancer.7

    In 2017, about half of all employers in the United States offered some type of wellness initiative.8  It’s estimated that in 2019 large corporate employers spent $3.6 million on employee wellness programs.9 Most employers (72%) who offer wellness programs offer both wellness screening and interventions to help prevent or manage health problems.10 Interventions can include fitness programs and help with weight loss and smoking cessation. Among large firms that offer health benefits, 31% provide an incentive for employees to take a health risk assessment, and 40% of organizations offer rewards and bonuses for achieving wellness benchmarks.11

    How to make your wellness program a success

    Your wellness program can offer gym memberships, fun runs, yoga classes, expert speakers, coaches and instructors, physical therapy and massage services, standing desks, meditation rooms, education about smoking, alcohol consumption and healthy eating, and more. There are many ways to manage the implementation or enhancement of your wellness offerings. A Fitness Tracking Account (FTA) lets you help employees track their progress to achieving their physical fitness goals. Goal attainment can be tied to rewards for the employee, which can be converted into cash or other incentives. Or expand fitness to include other healthful behaviors and benchmarks in a Wellness Tracking Account (WTA).

    A 2016 study found that “a key determinant of success” in company wellness programs was support from company leadership. Leaders must “consistently express the importance of employee health and wellbeing to the organization,” both preaching wellness and supporting it with their actions.12 Attitude and commitment count: the Harvard Business Review noted that wellness programs only work in a culture where self-care is prioritized.”13

    All’s well that ends well

    The arguments for investing in wellness in the workplace are compelling. For example, according to a Harvard study, every dollar spent on wellness saves $2.73 in lost productivity due to absenteeism.14 And more than three out of four HR professionals said they believed implementing wellness initiatives was a successful strategy to control healthcare expenses and improve the health of their employees.15

    Traditional wellness benefits can be a powerful force in your company. Combined with quality-of-life benefits like flexible working hours expanded time off, and innovative benefits like credits for biking to work, they can create a workplace that’s not only healthier and more productive, but happier, too.  




    1. “Wellness Programs for a Multigenerational Workforce,” American Institute for Preventive Medicine:

    2. “The 7 Best Reasons to Have a Wellness Program,” WellSteps, Sept. 2019:

    3. “Designing a Wellness Program for Multigenerational Workplaces,” Wellright, May 2018:

    4. “The 7 Best Reasons to Have a Wellness Program,” WellSteps, Sept. 2019:

    5. “SHRM Research: Health and Wellness Benefits,” SHRM, 2016:

    6. “Engaging a Multigenerational Workforce in Workplace Wellness Programs,” CDC Workplace Health Resource Center:

    7. “Wellness Programs for a Multi-Generational Workforce,” American Institute for Preventive Medicine:

    8. “CDC: Half of Workplaces Offer Health/Wellness Programs,” CDC:

    9. “Five Wellness Benefits Your Company Needs to Be Giving,”, May, 2019:

    10. “Workplace Wellness Programs Study,” Rand Health Quarterly, 2013:

    11. “How to engage a multi-generational workforce in wellbeing benefits,” Reba, Jan., 2017:

    12. “How to Get Leadership Support for Wellness,” Wellsteps, Jan., 2019:

    13. “Seven Employee Wellness Trends and Opportunities for 2019,”, Dec. 2018:

    14. “The 7 Best Reasons to Have a Wellness Program,” WellSteps, Sept. 2019:

    15. “SHRM Research: Health and Wellness Benefits,” SHRM, 2016: