• Brad Swanson

Workplace Wellness - What You Need to Know

Updated: May 14

This is an overview of workplace wellness, why organizations are investing in it, what types of products are available, and the newest trends to keep track of.

If you’re short on time, here’s the quick version:

Organizations are increasing their use of workplace wellness benefits to decrease costs and improve culture. Regardless of whether you offer services that identify problems, support individual behavior changes, or promote a healthy lifestyle, you will see the greatest ROI from tracking the performance of your wellness programs and offering customized benefits for your employees.

To start - why are organizations investing so much in workplace wellness?

- Attract & Retain Talent -

Getting the best talent to join and stay on your team is a major concern for most organizations. But in the current environment of historically low unemployment, organizations really have to up their game to be competitive. An office ping pong table is nice, but it isn't enough. Employees want to work for organizations that are invested in their health and wellbeing. So what better way to show you care than with robust and sincere wellness programs. We're talking about benefits that employees actually want to use or already use and now are getting for cheaper.


- Lower Health Care Costs -

Hopefully by now, everyone has seen the scary graphs showing health care costs rising at uncontrollable rates (1). If your organization is self insured, meaning you pay for your employees health insurance, then your organization is on the line for your employees' health. The healthier they are, the less you pay. With industry experts reporting between a $2 to $4 ROI on every dollar spent on wellness benefits (2) , it makes sense for organizations to put forth some investment and help their employees stay healthy and decrease absenteeism. Also, I'll include in this section the benefit of helping employees stay engaged at work (decreasing presenteeism, improving productivity). If your employee is eating well, staying active, and feels supported, will likely perform better at work.


- Culture -

The intangible that we all want to improve - culture. Remote work options, less meetings, management training for leadership, and opportunities for growth and advancement for employees all play a role in culture. Another way organizations are improving culture is investing in their employees. While organizations have to focus on their bottom line, putting money towards benefits that improve the quality of life for your employees demonstrates that you actually care. And for organizations that create the positive culture that employees desire comes all the spoils - happy workers, improved performance, employee referrals, growth, and profit!

So, what types of wellness benefits are there?

I'm separating wellness benefits into three large categories. Obviously, this isn't perfect, but I find it easier to understand them this way.


- Screening: we'll identify your problems -

These services are geared towards finding potential and real health problems in your employees. This typically consists of an in person, online, or phone questionnaire that identifies some combination of risk of diabetes, heart disease, height, weight, cholesterol, blood panel, and many, many more. This is a quick and fairly inexpensive way to help identify problems. You can use this information to introduce educational programming, offer targeted services to address common problems, or refer patients to individual support services. This can be a good first step, but without follow on support, it doesn't do much other than identifying risk.


- Education & Coaching: we provide some support to help you change behavior -

The goal of these services is to help individual employees implement changes. This is everything from eating healthier, quitting smoking, managing stress, or working out. Unfortunately the quality of these services range widely. Traditional health coaching organizations utilize call centers with college graduates and no health backgrounds to talk to employees for 15 minutes. Luckily, more and more organizations are offering individualized services that focus on individuals' needs. You will likely see less utilization of these services, but success can equate to dramatic decreases in healthcare costs, grateful employees, and a culture of health and wellbeing.


- Discounts & Access to Services: we'll make it easier for you to do your thing -

If your employees are highly motived, this is a great option to support them. Some of these services include discounted gym memberships, discounted workout classes, or access to bike share programs. There is some concern that you're just paying for something your employees would already do. The thought being that employees who belong to a gym will do so regardless of you paying for the membership. Even if that's true, it still helps your culture by providing a benefit those employees value.

How can I get the most out of my wellness benefits?


- Data: track outcomes and ROI -

Organizations want to know the outcomes of their investments, and that means data. They want to know how much they are investing, utilization of their benefits programs, and how it is affecting health care costs among other things. This makes sense as organizations are tracking just about everything. They want to quantify, review, and make decisions that are backed by the data.


- Individualized Support: one size does not fit all -

As mentioned before, more and more organizations are customizing their benefit offerings to match employees' needs. This just makes sense - if you consider all of your employees, they all have different challenges, personalities, and needs. So, the goal is to make your wellness benefits diverse enough to help them all. To that end, it should be relatively easy for employees to use the services. Convoluted systems, long forms to fill out, and poorly designed apps/websites just aren't cutting it.



(1) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-healthcare-spending/u-s-health-spending-to-rise-5-5-percent-per-year-over-next-decade-cms-idUSKCN1Q92TQ

(2) ) https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_briefs/RB9700/RB9744/RAND_RB9744.pdf https://hbr.org/2010/12/whats-the-hard-return-on-employee-wellness-programs