Health and wellness are ideals everyone strives for, but finding a balance of the two while navigating the intricacies of our daily lives is something many struggle to achieve. When life throws some unexpected turns into the mix, it not only creates stress at home but also in the workplace. The effects of those stressors can have a significant impact on employees’ mental wellbeing and even affect their performance at work. In fact, a survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) this year found that employees experiencing stress miss an average of nine workdays each year.
Many employers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of managing the wellbeing of employees as a whole. When employees are happy and healthy, it improves workplace productivity, decreases absenteeism, attracts and retains top talent, improves employee morale, and ultimately, reduces medical and pharmacy costs.
Large employers in the United States are expected to spend an estimated $3.6 million each on wellness programs in 2019 to support a healthier and more productive workforce, according to the NBGH and Fidelity’s 10th annual Health and Wellness survey. One of the reasons is that wellness has a huge impact on healthcare costs, and employers want to address these rising costs by taking preventive measures.
The Wellness Movement
Health and wellness have come a long way, but when you look back in history, you can’t help but notice that employers have always recognized the benefits of happy and healthy employees. In the ‘80s—the 1880s, that is—the president of National Cash Register (NCR) met employees for horseback rides after work. Later, NCR instituted exercise breaks twice a day, constructed an employee gym and, in 1011, added a recreational park for its employees, according to the National Council of Behavioral Health.
In the 1930s, we saw the introduction of Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to help employees with occupational alcoholism, but they gradually expanded to address other work-life issues. It was also around this time when the U.S. saw employers begin to offer health benefits to employees as an incentive instead of solely competing on the basis of pay.
In the 1980s, we saw the emergence of health and fitness, and anti-smoking measures were becoming more prominent. It was during this decade when one of the largest U.S. corporations, Boeing, banned smoking in the workplace. Today, smoking-related illnesses cost the U.S. more than $300 billion each year, including an estimated $170 billion for direct medical care for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which can be a huge expense for employer health plans.
Making the Most of Wellness
Employer-based programs that focus on physical health are quite customary, and those programs typically include reduced gym membership fees for employees and chronic disease (care) management programs. Employers who self-insure can purchase a chronic disease management program as an add-on to their employee health plan or a health plan carrier may include a similar program in the cost of their plan.
At Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT), we partner with our sister company, Pinnacle Health Management (PHM), to offer a care management program at no cost to employees diagnosed with a range of chronic care conditions. This program is included with every WGAT health plan purchased. Additionally, employers can obtain our Wellness Program as an add-on, which includes quarterly wellness challenges, wellness toolkits and other educational resources, newsletters on popular health topics, and customized reports at the end of all wellness challenges.
Wellness challenges this year have included the “Slash Your Sugar Challenge,” a 21-day challenge that focused on reducing sugar consumption; the “Step Up Challenge,” which is a walking challenge to improve the general health of employees through daily movement; and the “Rest and Revive Challenge,” a mental health challenge that promotes positive emotional wellbeing through preventing and managing stress.
If you don’t have the WGAT plan, which includes a care management program with every plan and the added option of a Wellness Program, contact us to see how we can help you better manage your healthcare costs at (800) 333-4942.
In addition to serving as executive vice president of Western Growers Assurance Trust, David Zanze is the president of Pinnacle Claims Management, Inc.