Stress at Work: Recognizing and Understanding Symptoms

We all experience stress, in different ways and from different sources and it affects each of us differently. The common denominator, though, is that stress in the workplace manifests itself in increased absenteeism and presenteeism, lower productivity and increased service errors. Stress also has a negative impact on safety, quality and teamwork.

According to the 2013 Work and Well-Being Survey released in March by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Organizational Excellence, more than one-third (35%) of American workers experience chronic work stress, with low salaries, lack of opportunities for advancement, and heavy workloads topping the list of contributing factors.

The online survey polled 1,501 adults in January 2013. The majority of those surveyed (53%) work at organizations with fewer than 500 employees, 37% at organizations employing fewer than 100. Thirty-one percent of respondents had frontline jobs, directly involved with the production of products or providing services such as sales, bookkeeping, and customer service. Twenty-nine percent had mid-level positions involving management and supervision or coordination of people or departments. Those with mid-level or senior positions but no management responsibilities comprised one-quarter of respondents, while 15% had upper-level positions, involving coordination of the organization, development of organizational plans/goals, and supervision of managers.

The APA’s most recent Stress in America survey (released in February 2013) also found high levels of employee stress, with 65% of working Americans citing work as a significant source of stress, and 35% reporting that they typically feel stressed during the workday.

Stress also is a contributor to high blood pressure and other diseases. When we’re frustrated, depressed, or under tremendous pressure at work or at home, we tend to eat poorly, not exercise and otherwise tax our bodies. Links have been established between stress and our body’s production of excess cholesterol. Stress also interferes with our normal sleep, which causes fatigue and makes us irritable and more susceptible to illness. When unchecked, stress interferes with our general quality of life, and can affect our relationships, productivity, customer service, safety and quality.

Why are we so stressed?

For starters, says the Work and Well-Being Survey, many workers don’t feel like they’re being paid enough or getting the recognition they deserve. Less than half of working Americans report that they receive adequate monetary compensation (46%) or non-monetary recognition (43%) for their contributions on the job. Additionally, just 43% of employees say that recognition is based on fair and useful performance evaluations. Just over half (51%) say they feel valued at work.

In addition to feeling undervalued, employees also report feeling unheard: Less than half (47%) say their employer regularly seeks input from employees, and even fewer (37%) say the organization makes changes based on that feedback.

On the heels of the recession, many employees also appear to feel stuck, with only 39% citing sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement.

Despite growing awareness of the importance of a healthy workplace, few employees say their organizations provide sufficient resources to help them manage stress (36%) and meet their mental health needs (44%). Just 42% of employees say that their organizations promote and support a healthy lifestyle, and only 36% report regularly participating in workplace health and wellness programs. “This isn’t just an HR or management issue,” says Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., APA’s CEO, “The well-being of an organization’s workforce is a strategic business imperative that is linked to its performance and success.”

Also, despite many work-related advances for women, the workplace still doesn’t feel like a level playing field for many women who report feeling less valued than men (48%). Less than half of employed women (43%) say they receive adequate monetary compensation for their work, compared to 48% of employed men. Further, fewer employed women than men report that their employer provides sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement (35% versus 43%) or resources to help them manage stress (34% versus 38%). Though employed women are more likely than men to report having good mental health (86% versus 76%), more women say they typically feel tense or stressed out at work (37% versus 33%).

Employers can’t eliminate all the factors that cause their workers to feel stressed, but there are a number of items that can be addressed – and most of them are outlined in the issues described above. Next month, in the June issue of CBIA Healthy Connections, Wellness Matters will address how to set up a roadmap for decreased stress in the workplace.

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If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

The Price of Obesity in the Workplace

The increase in obesity rates in the United States is costing every employer — and every employee. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 36 percent of U.S. adults are obese (at least 20 percent above their ideal weight), and current estimates of the medical cost of adult obesity range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion annually — more than alcohol- and smoking-related costs combined.

A 2012 report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation predicts that if current obesity rates continue unabated, by 2030, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent, 39 states above 50 percent, and all 50 states above 44 percent.

Obesity is closely linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and other serious medical conditions. That represents significant costs to employers who provide health benefits to their employees and face ever-increasing health insurance premiums. In addition, all employers risk incurring obesity-related costs in the form of lower employee productivity, increased workers’ compensation claims, and other workplace issues.

Medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for those with a healthy weight, says the CDC. Costs related to medical expenses, however, don’t necessarily account for the lion’s share of the financial burden on employers.

A 2010 study by Duke University researchers found that obesity among full-time employees costs U.S. employers more than $73 billion per year. The investigation considered three factors in determining costs: employee medical expenditures; lost productivity on the job due to health problems (presenteeism); and absence from work (absenteeism). Presenteeism was found to account for most of the total cost — as much as 56 percent in the case of female employees and 68 percent in the case of male workers.

Additionally, a 2007 Duke University Medical Center analysis showed that obesity also drives up employers’ costs associated with workers’ compensation claims and the cost of workers’ compensation insurance, which all employers are required to carry. The study found that obese employees filed twice the number of workers’ comp claims and lost 13 times more work days from injuries and illness than did non-obese workers.

How employers can make a difference

Employers can help themselves and their employees by encouraging a culture of wellness from the top of the shop down.  The most effective solution is to provide economic and other incentives to those employees who show clear signs of improving their health via weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, or participating in exercise programs.

Educating employees also plays a beneficial role in promoting healthy weight consciousness. This is especially important when you consider that individuals’ beliefs about the causes of obesity affect weight-loss success or failure.

Researchers found that whether a person believes obesity is caused by overeating or a lack of exercise can predict whether he or she will gain or lose weight. People who believe obesity is caused by diet will focus on consuming less food, while those who believe the cause is lack of exercise will work out more. The problem is that people tend to overestimate the number of calories burned during exercise and underestimate the number of calories in the food they eat.


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Building your wellness roadmap takes time, planning, and commitment

As a small business leader, you are constantly analyzing your benefits programs, taking into account growing healthcare expenditures and the personal health and wellness of your employees. To address this, you may have already taken the first step by joining a wellness program such as CBIA Healthy Connections. The program was designed with this key tenet in mind: To reduce costs, employees need to become engaged in both their healthcare spending and in reducing their health risks.

But remember, while one obvious goal of any wellness program is to reduce costs, it is not the primary message. Wellness is about people and improving their quality of life. Successful programs place heavy emphasis on personal outcomes. Employees benefit from access to fitness facilities, and access to healthcare education and information on topics ranging from stress management and exercise to healthy cooking. Employees also benefit from smoking-cessation courses and materials, and through an understanding of their own personal responsibility in ensuring their health and wellness.

When you integrate wellness and intervention programs, you have the opportunity to educate employees about how the connections between their healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices relate to their premiums and other healthcare costs. And these efforts also are rewarded through improved teamwork, increased productivity, fewer sick days, and enhanced quality and service.

How to get started

It’s already February, and if you’re like most of us, January just flew by. Blink and it will be summer. So, if you’re thinking of implementing a more proactive health and wellness program in 2013, you have to dig in now by identifying initial action steps, setting goals, and implementing your program.

A critical first step is to take advantage of interactive, online health and wellness programs. You’re at an advantage here because as a member of CBIA Health Connections, your company can join CBIA Healthy Connections for free! This program was developed to enhance the health and productivity of employees and support a more complete system of care.

Pulling together members of your team to discuss and build a road map, or plan, is the next step. What do you want to achieve? What is reasonable, given time, costs, the business you’re in and your culture? Will you shoot for the “low-hanging fruit,” or try to implement a more comprehensive program?  Once you’ve had these discussions, and have determined what you can reasonably achieve, you have to establish a timetable and a communication plan for building consensus, promoting action steps, and rewarding successes.

The next step is encouraging your team to complete the free, in-depth health assessment offered through CBIA Healthy Connections. This online assessment yields revealing, yet actionable information for the individual, and can be used to help guide the employee to programs and actions that will address his or her health needs. There’s also a popular incentive:  Each employee who completes an assessment receives a $50 Amazon gift card, and your company is automatically entered into a raffle for a $500 gift card.

Quality educational courses and materials, accessible fitness activities and effective communication are all core components of a successful wellness program. Employers must make the connections between medical costs, health risks and personal responsibility. The more we understand that health risks, many of which are modifiable, drive health utilization and cost, the more effective we can be in helping our employees adjust their behaviors and attitudes toward wellness.


If you’re not enjoying the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Give the Gift of Health and Wellness

As the year wraps up and you contemplate all the ways of thanking and giving back to your staff for their time, effort, hard work, and contributions to your organization’s success, don’t overlook the gifts of health and wellness. That doesn’t mean you have to cancel the office party or return the eggnog! But when it comes to long-term value, appreciation, positive morale and team building, demonstrating a proactive commitment to areas of your employees’ lives that matter outside of the office or workplace are priceless.

As wonderful as this time of year may be, the holidays are typically a time of overindulgence. We eat too much rich, fattening food, drink more alcoholic beverages than usual, don’t sleep or exercise enough, run around like fruitcakes, and generally wear ourselves out. We know this about ourselves, however, which is why many people make their year-end “resolutions” to eat less, sleep more and exercise regularly in the New Year. Savvy employers can play a role in helping their employees achieve these goals through encouragement, open communication, setting team goals, and offering rewards for healthy behaviors.

You can start by encouraging employees to complete an online personal healthcare assessment. Available for free as part of CBIA Healthy Connections, these assessments are simple screening tools that don’t involve any testing or medical intervention, and help people set benchmarks and identify wellness and health items they’d like to improve. Based on their assessment, people can set goals and determine steps for improving key health items like reducing weight, eliminating smoking, exercising more regularly, improving their diets, reducing stress, and more.

Depending on staff size and location, you can consider having healthcare screenings done onsite for verifying cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and related key indicators. You also can encourage your staff to set goals publicly among the team, then work together to achieve those goals. This could be through fitness center memberships, exercise classes, dance, yoga and a variety of recreation activities.

Altruism and volunteering are also valuable contributors to emotional health and wellbeing and to physical health as well. Supporting your employees’ efforts to donate time, money, and work for causes they believe in will help them feel better about themselves, help the community, and benefit everyone involved. That also benefits your company’s bottom line through enhanced morale, productivity, and teamwork. So, as the advertisements say, “give the gift that keeps on giving” by becoming actively involved in employee health and wellness.

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To enjoy the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Why bother investing in prevention?

Employers face a variety of costs related to their employees. If you’re already providing health benefits, giving your staff a safe work environment, and underwriting paid vacations and sick days, why do more? After all, people manage their lives outside of the workplace every day. So what’s an employers’ return on investing in prevention?

Every day, we take steps to prevent unwanted events from happening. We brush our teeth and take vitamins. We wear helmets when we ride our bikes, safety glasses on the job, or protective gear in contact sports. Even our lawnmowers and tools have safety devices to limit our chances of hurting ourselves. Of course, accidents still happen. People who brush their teeth can still get cavities. People who always wear their seat belts may still get hurt in a car crash. The best we can do is to reduce the odds these events will happen by improving the chances for a good outcome.

When talking about cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases, the same concept applies. Prevention mainly refers to lowering the risk of getting a disease rather than completely removing the risk. There always will be elements outside of our control, and there are many behaviors or realities we can’t prevent.

If you’re an employer, the health and wellness of your employees is and should remain of concern to you on a number of levels. The stronger, more vibrant and happier your workforce, the better their productivity and morale. Healthy employees take fewer sick days, are more “present” at their jobs, and provide better service to your customers. So, what can you do to help keep them healthy and well?

Making a difference

Humans, by and large, are pleasure driven, well-intentioned, convenience-dependent creatures. We eat what tastes good, drive when we can walk, sleep when we’re able, and create amazing tools and devices to make our lives faster, cheaper, and easier.

It’s hard to know who benefits from prevention. We know some behaviors can lower the risk of cancer, but we don’t know how great the benefit is for any one person. For example, non-smokers are much less likely to develop lung cancer compared to smokers. However, we do not know who prevents lung cancer by not smoking and who would have remained cancer-free even if they had smoked. Further, most smokers will never be diagnosed with lung cancer and some non-smokers will. So, taking steps to prevent cancer lowers risk, but it does not ensure a person never develops the disease.

Cancer, like many other chronic diseases, tends to be caused by a combination of factors. Some factors we may be able to control (like exercise and diet), some are out of our control (like age and genetics), and some are still unknown. Since many factors drive risk and we can change only a few of these, we cannot avoid some amount of risk.

But employers are leaders, and as such, we can lead our employees to better health by creating an environment and culture at work or outside of the office that educates, informs, accommodates, and rewards for healthier behaviors. We can provide easy online or onsite access to health assessments and screenings, underwrite gym memberships, support walking during breaks, sponsor bowling or softball teams, contribute toward charitable events like walkathons and 5K races, and much more. We can recognize and provide incentives, like time off, gift certificates and peer celebrations for our employees who set and achieve personal goals such as weight loss, smoking cessation and cholesterol reduction. And we can encourage our workers to get regular physical exams, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other preventative tests that help reduce long-term health risks.

Prevention is not an illusion. The disease process is very complex, so it’s hard to pin down how a certain set of risk factors will affect a person. But the good news is that many behaviors that comprise a healthier lifestyle are under our control. Making healthy choices offers rewards far beyond disease prevention, and leaders can set the bar higher for their employees and help them achieve those benefits.

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To enjoy the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Bringing the Family to Work

“It’s a Family Affair,” sang Sly and the Family Stone, and indeed it is.  An effective workplace functions like an extended family, and acknowledging and accommodating employees’ “real” families contributes significantly to employee satisfaction, quality, improved productivity, and enhanced customer service.

When employees take time off, whether planned or unplanned, to tend to sick family members or to pursue family oriented activities away from work, it can be inconvenient and disruptive, especially when you have a small staff. How companies handle those “normal” requests can make a world of difference in employee attitudes toward their employer.

There are two sides to this coin. As understanding as employers may appear regarding work/family balance, when we have an angry customer, deadline, or rush job on the line, we don’t want to work around personnel shortages. Planned absences are more easily managed, but unplanned time, such as when an employee gets sick or has to take care of someone else who is sick, can be a real pain.

For their part, employees typically understand that being away from work or the office may put pressure on others to fill gaps. We don’t want to leave our teammates in the lurch, and being away can make preparing for the time off or the return more challenging. But life calls, and taking breaks from work, whether planned or not, is healthy and important, especially since it helps strengthen families and reduces stress, which makes the employee more appreciative of workplace accommodation and support.

Employers can help employees reduce unplanned time off through proactive wellness efforts that address healthy nutrition and diet, by encouraging and supporting exercise and fitness, by supporting smoking-cessation and general health improvement, and through a positive, accommodating attitude toward employees’ lives away from the office.

By providing health and wellness information and educational resources that encourage family awareness and participation, you can help your employees and their families set and achieve personal wellness goals. Employers also can sponsor activities outside of the workplace, such as wellness walks and runs, bicycling events, outings and other healthy activities that promote teamwork and include families.

Being actively aware of employees’ personal needs goes a long way toward improved morale, loyalty and productivity. For example, if your workplace can accommodate scheduling flexibility—such as letting an employee start a little later or leave a little earlier, or take time off during the day for medical appointments, workouts or other needs—it helps employees better manage their lives and meet their families’ needs. When employees can’t achieve balance in their lives or satisfy family obligations, it causes stress and resentment and can contribute to absenteeism or “presenteeism,” the word coined to reflect when employees come to work but aren’t able to pay attention or work effectively.

Additionally, establishing and communicating clear boundaries and expectations about time off is crucial. Productivity, safety and quality always will remain critical requirements, but they’re not just the company’s goals—every employee and his or her family can embrace them as well.


To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Friendly challenges and incentives help drive wellness participation

It’s coming up on summer, when people are forced to look at their bodies in sleeveless shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. This is the perfect season (and a good internal marketing opportunity) to capitalize on normal worries over body shape and image by enhancing your employee wellness program participation through reminders, incentives, and team activities.

Most wellness programs ramp up in the winter, when people are forced indoors, holiday eating increases, and weight gain peaks. That’s when personal goals are often set, new-year resolutions made, and gym memberships soar. Now, six months later, people are emerging like butterflies from their cocoons, and they may not be happy with what they’re seeing. And even if they are, summer is a good time to reiterate your commitment to their health and wellness, and to parlay your interest in their wellbeing into visible action.

This would be a good time to review wellness program participation, to recognize goals achieved, and to encourage others to set their own or new goals. You can help through any of the following steps:

Offer a company-wide incentive for health assessment participation. When everyone participates in your wellness program, everyone benefits. Even though it’s an individual choice, you can encourage more involvement by rewarding the entire team when everyone completes their assessment. This can be through gift cards, a team meal, time off, or other incentives that work for you and your business.

Offer healthcare screenings.  You can bring healthcare screeners to your workplace, or encourage your employees to get screened on their own. Then consider having them compare notes and share their personal results, goals, and accomplishments. Having moral support at the workplace is invaluable, and it strengthens overall teamwork and morale.

Ask employees to talk about wellness efforts. Host a breakfast, lunch, or afternoon gathering (with healthy snacks, of course!) dedicated to your wellness efforts. Ask employees what’s working right about your program, and what could be done differently or better. Soliciting feedback and involving them directly in their own wellness planning allows you to learn what challenges they (and you) are facing in launching or maintaining a successful effort.

Host a “wellness picnic” or event. Chances are you’re going to do some kind of picnic or team outing before the summer’s over, so why not relate it to wellness? If you tie your activity to wellness, you can have themed events, offer healthy food and involve families in your employees’ personal wellness practices. It also shows that you are fully committed to this program. Let your employees plan the event, then you can pick up the check and be the hero.

Sponsor a walk for charity. There is no shortage of worthy causes, only a shortage of funding! So encourage your employees to choose a charity walk or run, build a team, and train for the event. You sponsor them, your company name gets on their tee-shirts, and they work together to improve their health, improve camaraderie, and support a good cause. The same thinking can be applied to softball, golf, or other physical activities.

Introduce a new wellness element. This might be a good time to offer an incentive such as partial reimbursement on health or fitness club membership, involvement in a smoking-cessation program, replacing candy, soda, and unhealthy snacks in vending machines with healthy snacks and drinks, etc. The point is to keep building momentum and to show you’re vested in your team’s wellness…just saying it isn’t enough.

As your company’s leader, it’s up to you to set a positive, energized wellness example, to offer meaningful incentives and opportunities, to encourage teamwork, and to reward effort. These actions will speak far louder than words throughout the year.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

Have fun and relax, whether you want to or not

When you take time off for vacation, do you take your laptop or tablet? Do you check your emails and voicemail messages from your smart phone, read long-unopened mail, draft proposals or performance reviews, conduct research or write memos?  If you say “yes” to any of these, you’re in good company…but it’s also likely you’re not good company, and you aren’t getting the real “down time” you need to relax, reduce stress, and replenish yourself.

Behavioral health also is a key component of your overall wellness. Taking time off, learning to relax, reducing stress and effectively dealing with situations that cause panic, anxiety, or other emotional pressure are just as important as eating right and exercising regularly.            

As an employer it’s critical that you encourage your staff to find their own paths to relaxation and better health. That includes uninterrupted vacation time, sick days when they’re needed, “mental health breaks,” and generous wellness programs. The rewards for modeling and facilitating these behaviors include increased productivity, better service, enhanced teamwork, reduced errors and accidents, lower absenteeism, and long-term loyalty.

According to Elizabeth Scott, MS, writing in About.Com on the importance of vacations, many people don’t take vacations often enough, and almost half the readers polled at the About.Com site admitted they never take vacations. When we take our work on vacation with us, she says, we don’t allow ourselves to escape the work mindset vacations are intended to break. The values of vacations, she says, are numerous, including:

  • Stave off burnout, making workers more productive and creative
  • Keep us healthy by reducing stress over short- and longer-term periods
  • Promote overall wellbeing, including improved sleep, mood and a reduction in physical complaints
  • Strengthen bonds with partners and family members, which also reduces overall stress
  • Increased quality of work related to increased quality of life.

May is National Employee Health and Fitness Month, and it’s also National Mental Health Month. Now is a good time to create an environment that supports employee “downtime.” That might include break rooms and clearly respected lunch or dinner periods, picnic tables outdoors, or enough time for employees to walk or grab a quick workout. More proactive options can include friendly competitions and worker recognition for achieving wellness milestones, incentive programs, healthy food in vending machines or your lunchroom, and support for wellness-related classes. Concern for your employees’ wellness will pay you back in spades with a happier staff and more satisfied customers.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

How are you measuring your wellness program’s ROI?

Regardless of the services or products you offer, healthcare costs take a big bite out of your revenue stream, and you need a cost-containment solution to mitigate or control those costs. Since 1999, increases in employer-sponsored healthcare costs have far exceeded the rate of overall inflation; up to as much as four times in some years. In response, many U.S. employers have instituted worksite wellness programs designed to encourage employees to live healthier. The end result is reduced health risk factors for employees and a reduction in year-over-year healthcare spending trends for both employees and their employers.

In a health management study conducted in 2009 with managers of small- to medium-sized businesses across the country,* the majority of respondents stated their worksite wellness programs had been in place for more than two years, long enough to see return on investment (ROI). However, while the survey found that most respondents understand that the impact of a wellness program should be measured, many key metrics to achieving a good assessment remain unmeasured.

To calculate the ROI of employer wellness efforts, you have to understand the relationship between health risk factors and healthcare costs. Risk factors increase the unnecessary and avoidable utilization of medical services that will drive up cost. When organizations understand the correlation between health risk and cost, they can begin to understand how to measure the cost savings from reducing those risks.

Defining Return on Investment

There are two ways to define ROI; reduce the rate of increase in health plan costs and reduce costs in absolute terms. You can measure monetary savings of medical costs in absolute terms (for instance, a savings of $100 per participant from 2010 to 2011). Companies can calculate ROI if it offsets the rate of increase in health plan costs. If the trend was 10 percent per year for four years and becomes 7 percent per year after the implementation of a wellness program, you know it’s working.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents state their organizations analyze the cost effectiveness, cost savings, and return on investment of their wellness programs. Employee participation is the most tracked metric, with 89 percent stating it is a very important measure. Respondents also list behavioral changes (84 percent) and employee satisfaction (74 percent) as important measures. Of related interest, although 87 percent of respondents state their program tracks participation, only 63 percent say their organization regularly monitors employee satisfaction; 61 percent say organizations assess changes in biometric measures; and 55 percent say their organization assesses and monitors the health status of at-risk employees.

Also of great significance, few respondents are tracking productivity metrics; only 29 percent monitor the impact on absenteeism, and a mere 18 percent monitor the impact on employee turnover, morale or productivity. And barely half of the employers surveyed said they or their current wellness provider have the capability to analyze medical and pharmaceutical claims data, critical components for effective cost analysis.

Behind the Financials

On-the-job performance often takes a back seat when it comes to measuring the ROI of health management, since healthcare cost reduction is the driving force for most wellness programs. While absenteeism is relatively easy to track, many employers do not measure it because it is difficult to determine the cause and reason. Employee morale, productivity and presenteeism are more challenging to measure. Presenteeism reflects an employee’s productivity when well, compared to when they are in pain, sick or stressed.

Participation tracking is very important, as is talking with your employees about their personal goals, their efforts to achieve those goals, and the support they get or feel they’re getting from their workplaces. Companies that are able to demonstrate ROI for wellness initiatives typically share five common elements:

  • A comprehensive program
  • Effective incentives
  • Biometrics
  • Multiple program modalities; and
  • Communication programs.

Initiating best practices

The following are best practices to strengthen wellness program performance and ultimately strengthen ROI:

  1. Design a comprehensive program to apply to all employees. Include both healthy and at-risk employees for program initiatives, as well as health assessments and screenings.
  2. Integrate incentives into plan design. The best programs have engaged and supportive managers who tailor incentives to their unique employee population. Successful wellness efforts include initiatives like premium discounts, cash, prizes, and/or paid time off.
  3. Validate efforts with biometric screenings. Health risk assessments are only one part of the process for tracking employee health. A biometric screening includes three components: blood work, blood pressure and body mass index.
  4. Offer multiple program modalities. Some wellness programs are completely self-directed. The best programs offer several options since one method will not work for the employee population. If employees do not like the offered programs, they will stop participating.
  5.  Engage employees with effective health-awareness programs. The best wellness communication strategy is engaging but not threatening. Efforts should be ongoing throughout the year and customized to your company and its activities. The most successful worksite wellness programs are fun and interesting, and keep employees involved for the long term, while lowering health risks.

The Centers for Disease Control has determined that approximately 75 percent of healthcare costs and productivity losses are related to lifestyle choices. Changing behavior is critical to reducing health care costs, so the more employers support and participate in their employee wellness efforts, the greater the ROI. And remember: When it comes to measurement, take criticism seriously, but not personally. People love to complain. If a company listens carefully, employees will give feedback on program design successes and failures. 

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!

*The survey, “Trends in Measuring the ROI of Corporate Wellness,” was conducted in 2009 and sent via email to nearly 21,000 professionals. Nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) were senior management, C-level, vice president, or director. Another 40 percent were manager level. Most represented small to medium-size businesses, and all worked for companies with a current wellness program in place.

Give Your Employees the Gifts of Health and Wellness

When you operate a small business, every employee makes a significant contribution to service and results. If even one employee experiences frequent sick days, low productivity or an extended absence, it can lead to significant challenges and potential lost revenue or unhappy customers. It also damages morale internally when other employees are forced to pick up the slack.

Small businesses have jumped on the wellness bandwagon, once the purview of large employers only. Employers realize that employee wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs, lessen worker’s compensation claims, decrease absenteeism and employee turnover. Health and wellness initiatives supported in the workplace also increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve workers’ attitudes.

Investments in an employee wellness program can be well worth an employer’s initial cost outlay. Large companies have seen amazing returns on their investments as a result of their corporate wellness programs. According to a case study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a company-wide employee wellness program can save $2.43 for every $1 spent. And according to a report from U.S. Corporate Wellness, a commitment to an employee wellness program can result in a 20 percent to 55 percent reduction in healthcare costs.

As the end of 2011 rapidly approaches, this is a good time for employers on the wellness fence to consider learning more about implementing wellness initiatives that are readily available, simple to execute and can return significant results in stress reduction, customer service, productivity, employee morale and revenue.

To reap the benefits of a wellness program at your company, join CBIA Healthy Connections at your company’s next renewal. It’s free as part of your participation in CBIA Health Connections!