The economic value for an employer implementing a health and wellness initiative could well be a 3:1 return on investment
According to the World Health Organization, “the wealth of business is best founded on the health of its workers”. This explains how important it is to have a set framework of what health means for the corporate world. Good health is not just the absence of disease, but it involves a healthy lifestyle and a healthy mental attitude. The WHO (1948) shared that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. On the contrary, we have unfortunately created a society and a way of living so out of balance that the damage to our long-term health is an inevitable result. With the tremendously growing demands and expectations from employees at the workplace, employers need to sincerely look at a multifaceted approach towards healthcare. This is also why creating health awareness and planning wellness activities at work is gaining importance.
Workplace health & wellness trends in India
According to a Forbes Report, “for every $1 spent on health programs in the workplace, $16 is saved through less absenteeism”. If these figures are anything to go by, it is no wonder that health and wellness initiatives are fast catching the attention of CEOs, HR managers and business heads of large and small organizations alike in India. In developing countries like India studies have proved that chronic diseases are increasingly affecting the workforce, resulting in absenteeism and disability thus impacting at least 2 per cent of the capital directly spent on employee ill-health. Needless to say, indirect costs are more than the additional direct medical claim costs that employers incur.
Major health concerns faced in India’s workforces are conditions like Obesity, Cervical Spondylosis, Hypertension and more such problems, which sometimes even result in bigger catastrophes like heart attack, stroke and paralysis. 75 per cent Indians below the age of 40 are over stressed. Some alarming statistics from WHO state that 60 per cent of the deaths are attributed to chronic lifestyle diseases in India, and will possibly increase to 77 per cent over the next 10 years. With the average age of one of the world’s largest workforce ranging from 25 years to 35 years and with lifestyles having changed rapidly due to social and cultural boundaries getting merged with the West, it leaves employers with little or no choice, but to commit to improve employee health.
Positive impacts of wellness initiatives
Employee wellness initiatives always bring in a win-win for both employees and employers. However at present, wellness programs are often viewed as a good to have rather than a ‘people asset’ strategy. The economic value for an employer implementing a health and wellness initiative could well be a 3:1 return on investment. This makes it even wiser for employers to invest in wellness. A study by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health shows that organizations with highly effective wellness programs report significantly lower voluntary attrition than those whose programs have low effectiveness. As employees spend most part of their waking hours at the workplace, wellness programs which are both preventive and proactive are advisable. In simple terms, the key to a healthy workplace is promoting healthy behaviours.
It will not only reduce attrition, but will also attract new talent helping them move up the value chain. It goes without saying that a happy, healthy and engaged workforce will have a direct positive effect on productivity through improved overall presenteeism and employee retention at the workplace. Building a culture of wellness across all sections of employees has positive effects on the overall wellness of the organization. For instance, when MD Anderson initiated its wellness program, President John Mendelsohn took walks throughout the building with wellness coach Bill Baun. For many, it was the first time the president had been in their work space or had shaken their hand, and he tended to start conversations with “How’s your wellness?” This reflected the importance of health and wellbeing to every employee in the organization.
Is it not business wise then for progressive employers to make wellness their key focus rather than merely being about absence of illness?