Why workplace wellness programs are worth the investment

One of the biggest challenges we face as office workers is staying active. Like a ball and chain, we’re tied to our desks and meeting chairs from 9 to 5, and by the time the evening hits, all we want to do is kick our feet up and relax. The bad news: this lifestyle keeps us still, inactive and more susceptible to health issues.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 48 percent of all Americans are meeting the country’s physical activity guidelines. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to a weakened immune system, obesity, heart problems, depression, bone loss and even death.

Fortunately, employers and the government are coming up with new and creative ways to help us get moving and out of our unhealthy lifestyle ruts. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • A new law may soon go into effect allowing membership at a fitness facility to be paid for using tax-free health savings account dollars.
  • Employers have started to offer fun and unique wellness programs. Some examples include Motley Food’s free spinning classes and bootcamps, Zappos’ marathon reimbursement, and Google’s in-house ping-pong table and swimming pool.
  • Company-organized fitness competitions and challenges such as Sparks’ push-up contest continue to rise.

According to SHRM, since 2011 there has been an uptick in the number of health savings accounts (43 percent) and employer contributions (30 percent), in addition to employer-offered wellness programs (70 percent).

So the big question is, is this work actually paying off? And who really benefits?

The Health Trends Institute  found wellness programs yield talent attraction/retention, improved job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism and improved engagement. Their research also found every dollar invested into the creation and proper implementation of a wellness program resulted in a $3.27 yield in health care cost reductions.

The heightened focus on employee wellness is clearly a win-win for both the employer and employee. As an employee who at times can be too sedentary, I am hoping these initiatives and others help keep me and other employees active—after all, healthy employees are more engaged, more productive and have a better quality of life.

Danielle Clark is a human resources manager with more than 10 years of HR and customer service experience in healthcare and retail organizations. Her work with Fortune 500 companies, in addition to a diverse professional and academic background, has trained Clark to be results-driven, people-focused and a thought-provoking leader. Her goal is to educate and inspire professionals to change their way of thinking. She is also an adjunct professor, active community volunteer, wife, mother and passionate lifelong learner.

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