Employee health program can be an effective means to increase healthy habits.
Workplace wellness programs are all the rage businesses all across the United States. Employers have increasingly invested in these wellness programs to improve employee health and decrease health care costs. They are being sold as the solution to the effects of the sedentary lifestyle that most of us participate in on a daily basis. However, there is little experimental evidence on the effects of these programs.
We sit far too much, and we move far too little during the workday. I am 100% certain that all of us have experienced that power meeting that will just not end and our minds drift to getting a little exercise. Maybe institution exercise and wellness programs are the answer, but the question is: do these programs actually work?
The good news is that a 2019 published study looked to evaluate whether workplace wellness program resembling programs offered by US employers might be the answer. The randomized trial was implemented at 160 worksites from January 2015 through June 2016 and involved nearly 33,000 subjects. The subjects were randomized to either a test worksites with a wellness program or control worksites received no wellness program. The researchers collected data from surveys and biometrics to evaluate the success of the study.
Researchers found that worksites with the wellness program had an 8.3-percentage point higher rate of employees who reported engaging in regular exercise and a 13.6-percentage point higher rate of employees who reported actively managing their weight. Unfortunately, there were no significant differences in other self-reported health, clinical markers of improved health, health care spending or utilization, absenteeism, or job performance after 18 months.
The bottom line: Employees who worked at worksites with a wellness program reported significantly greater rates of some positive health behaviors compared with those without. Although there were no significant effects on clinical measures of health, health care spending and utilization, or employment outcomes after 18 months, this study is promising, and further research is warranted. Although these findings may make some businesses relook at the financial investment in these programs, I would recommend that they continue them. Eighteen months do not do justice to a lifetime of benefit from wellness programs.