Making a Case for

Why Worksite Wellness
Six Reasons for Worksite Wellness

Making the Case At the Wellness Councils of America, we believe that there are six important reasons why every business should consider developing and implementing a health promotion initiative.

Reason # I: Health Care Costs
Let’s start with the obvious. The first reason why the concept of health promotion is important to an organization is because health care costs continue to be an issue of major concern.

As you know, we spend over $1 trillion dollars in this country alone on health care, far more than any other nation in the world. What’s more, the average annual health care cost per person in the United States far exceeds $3,000 – lifetime costs per person are somewhere in the neighborhood of $225,000.

Sadly, despite these enormous expenditures, it is estimated that as many as 41 million Americans are without health care insurance. However, because much of these costs are linked to health habits, it is possible for employers to take aggressive action toward reducing health care utilization and containing costs by taking on a health promotion program.

Reason # 2: Most Illnesses Can Be Avoided
The second reason why the concept of health promotion is important to businesses is that the leading causes of illness are largely preventable. Believe it or not, experts suggest preventable illnesses make up approximately 70% of the entire burden of illness and associated costs in the United States. Behind these illnesses are a whole host of preventable factors including such things as tobacco use, high-risk alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyles, and poor nutritional habits.

Are you beginning to see the big picture here? By leveraging a health promotion initiative, employers can take important steps toward preventing unnecessary sickness and death. This is why so many business people are attracted to the idea of developing a health promotion program.

Clearly, it makes a lot of sense. After all, if you can reduce the burden of illness among your workforce by preventing the major causes of sickness, more of your employees will remain healthy and productive. What’s more, you may even save some money in the process.

Reason # 3:The Work Week is Expanding
The third reason why the concept of health promotion is important to businesses is the reality that the workweek is expanding.

According to Harvard economics professor Juliet S, people are working harder than they ever have before. Believe it or not, the typical American now works 47 hours a week – 164 more hours than only 20 years ago. And, if this present trend continues, Schor contends that average person would be on the job 60 hours a week – for an annual total of 3,000 hours a year.

Driven in large part by newly developed technology, modern conveniences like modems, laptops, personal pagers, faxes, cellular phones, voice and e-mail, have all but erased the traditional and sacred boundaries of work.

Without question, an ever-growing workweek poses a number of threats to the health and well-being of your employees. However, as a number of progressive employers have demonstrated, health promotion programs can help to alleviate some of these concerns.

Reason # 4:The Technology Revolution is On
The fourth reason why the concept of health promotion is important to businesses relates to the fact that we are currently knee-deep in a revolution of technology. In fact, since 1983, American businesses have added some 25 million new computers to the nation’s business operations.

To be sure, our increased reliance on technology has ushered in a whole host of new health concerns including things like repetitive stress injuries, low back problems, and compromised vision. Moreover, because almost one-third of the workforce now spends the lion’s share of their day seated at their desks plugged into workstations, sedentary lifestyles have become a concern of epic proportion.

Left unaddressed, these issues can have a serious impact in terms of the health of your employees and your company checkbook. While not a panacea, a well-designed health promotion initiative can also help to address some of these concerns.

Reason # 5: Employee’ Stress Levels are Increasing
Not only are we living in a high tech era, we are also living in the midst of an information explosion. In fact, according to management guru, Dr. Price Pritchett, there has been more information produced in the last 30 years than during the previous 5,000. And, if that’s not enough, experts estimate that the information supply available to us is doubling at the rate of every five years.

In addition to the challenge of information management, is the cold, harsh reality that the life span of our expensive computer hardware is now measured in days. Let’s not sugarcoat it. Trying to harness technology within a business environment is both challenging and frustrating.

Inherent in the whole process is an increased level of stress for both you and your employees. In fact, in a recent nationwide poll, 78% of Americans describe their jobs as stressful. Moreover, the vast majority indicated that their stress levels have worsened over the past ten years.

One thing’s for certain, if left unchecked, high levels of organizational stress will exact a very real toll on your business. From increased accidents, to reduced productivity, to unnecessary absenteeism, to increased medical care costs, stress is insidious in its nature and devastating in its impact.

Increasingly, more and more business leaders and health promotion practitioners are looking to health promotion programs as a means of reducing, managing, and in some instances, even eliminating harmful stressors. By implementing a comprehensive stress management intervention, it is possible for leaders of businesses to successfully combat prevalent stressors in the workplace.

For example, teaching your employees stress management skills, implementing flexible work schedules, increasing the quality and quantity of social interaction, and increasing participation in the company decision-making process can all have a significant impact.

Reason # 6: Increasing Diversity in the Workforce
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in the business environment is the increasing diversity of the workforce. However, with increasing diversity comes the need to address a variety of health and wellness issues in order to keep one’s employees healthy and productive.

For example, jobs generated by small firms are more likely to be filled by younger workers, older workers, and women. In fact, according to recent statistics obtained from the Small Business Administration, the number of women-owned firms and the firms owned by people of color have increased significantly. In fact, between 1987 and 1992, the number of women-owned businesses rose approximately 43%. Moreover, in 1996, nearly eight million women-owned firms provided jobs for 18.5 million persons — more people than are employed in the Fortune 500 industrial firms!

Recent data on black-owned businesses revealed an increase of 46%. Hispanic-owned businesses proved to be one of the fastest growing segments, increasing 82.7% between 1987 and 1992. Finally, businesses owned by Asian-Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives and Pacific Islanders increased 87.2% between 1987 and 1992.

Again, with increasing diversity comes the challenge of being responsive to a variety of additional health concerns. Because health promotion programs help to pinpoint the specific health issues of most concern, such initiatives can be used to seamlessly identify and address a variety of diverse health issues.

The Bottom Line on Worksite Wellness While the previously mentioned list was by no means meant to be a comprehensive one, you’d have to agree that these are some pretty compelling reasons why every organization should give serious consideration to developing a worksite health promotion initiative.