The Value of Wellness Programs in Today’s Workplace

By Barbara Mitchell
HR Expert and Co-Author
The Essential HR Handbook

In Chapter 29 of my latest book, The Big Book of HR, we talk about risk management. What better way to avoid risk than to incorporate wellness programs in today’s workplace?

Indeed, many organizations already provide employee wellness programs, including nutrition and weight control, smoking cessation, stress reduction, and fitness. These programs yield healthier and more productive employees, which translates into savings on health insurance for the employer and the employee.

What else pays off? Motivating employees, and their family members, through information and incentives that encourage them to participate in wellness programs.

Consider the ROI on the program initiated at Johnson & Johnson.

Regarded as a leader in wellness programs, Johnson & Johnson offers a $150 benefits bonus to overweight employees who reduce their body mass index by 10 percent. They found that its wellness program slowed the rate of increase of healthcare costs by $565 per employee.

Another example is Citibank, which debuted a new wellness program in 2008 and found that every dollar spent on wellness returns $2 to the company.

Wellness programs can be simple, or they can be as complex as your firm desires.

One easy way to get started is to sponsor flu shots or other vaccination clinics at your workplace. You can work with your Employee Assistance Program to bring in nutritionists to talk about how to eat healthy.

Try working with your local fitness center to offer reduced rates. Or offer on-site health screenings. You can also bring in speakers to talk about techniques for reducing stress in the workplace.

Before you start, here are some things to consider:

  • What are the goals of your wellness program?
  • How involved does your organization want to be in the health of your employees?
  • What is your budget?
  • What is your desired return on investment?
  • Will you offer rewards?
  • What will your wellness policy be, and who is responsible for administering the program?

As you put your program together, be sure to involve the families of your employees. Involving families can have a significant impact on reducing healthcare costs for your employees and for your organization.

A well-managed wellness program can have an impact on employee recruitment, engagement, and retention. When employees feel that their company cares about them as individuals, they tend to want to be productive and to stay where they are valued.

How can you measure the success of a wellness program?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Has the number of sick days declined?
  • Has the number of healthcare claims declined?
  • Has productivity increased?
  • Has workplace stress declined?
  • Are your employees more physically fit?
  • Has the use of tobacco declined?
  • Have workplace injuries declined?
  • Has employee engagement increased?
  • Has your wellness program been a positive draw when recruiting new employees?
  • Has your employee retention increased?

*For more information,*get your copy of The Big Book of HR, available from or Barnes and and your local bookstore.

About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and not-for-profit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook, and her newest, The Big Book of HR.