There has been a huge emphasis on wellness programs over the last several decades. Companies are continuing to learn that their employees perform better, take less sick days and are happier when they are healthy. Companies like Zappos have 'wellness adventures' for their employees, where they can take a 1-hour golf lesson, trampoline lessons or laser tag. Sign me up! Google brings in massage therapists, and for good reason; a calm employee is a happy employee.
 
What is the cost-effectiveness of having a wellness program in a corporate environment? According to a recent report, a summary of 7 cost analysis studies revealed a .48 return on investment for each corporate dollar spent on wellness programming.1 That means for every dollar invested, the company actually makes money!
 
Pharmacists can play an integral role in corporate wellness, due to the enormous cost that chronic conditions have on the employer. The CDC estimates  of every an employer spends on health costs are allocated towards treating chronic conditions, like hypertension, obesity, diabetes, asthma, and depression.2  The top 10 most costly conditions, in decreasing order of cost, are cardiovascular disease, smoking related diseases, alcohol related diseases, diabetes, Alzheimers, cancer, obesity, arthritis, asthma and stroke.
 
The old adage, 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' seems appropriate.
 
According to a recent Gallup poll, only 13.9% employees (or 1 in 7 people) is of normal weight with no chronic health conditions. The employee BMI and the number of sick days have a direct relationship. A normal weight employee takes an average of 0.34 sick days per month. An overweight employee with less than 2 chronic conditions takes 1.08 sick days per month. An overweight employee with more than 2 chronic conditions takes 3 sick days per month or 42 per year.
 
Having a pharmacist involved in wellness programming is key to reducing healthcare costs. Pharmacists have been trained in motivational interviewing techniques and can help tailor programs for smoking cessation, lifestyle and behavior change, and educating groups about disease risk reduction.
 
Unhealthy behaviors lead to health risk, which leads to chronic disease and increased healthcare costs. Encouraging healthy behaviors is a preventative measure employers can take to improve the health of their employees and reduce overall healthcare costs for the company.

Other ways employers can encourage healthy behaviors is hosting health fairs, offering healthy snacks in vending machines, hosting a healthy potluck or participating in a wellness challenge. Wellness challenges can get everyone involved and increase employee morale.

A wellness challenge is where employees team up to hit certain health targets (eg. steps, food logged, number of times checked in at the gym) and can accrue points based on level of engagement. The team with the most points can win a prize or get a certain company benefit.
 
There are also targeted incentive programs that can help motivate employees to get involved. Two examples are a random selection and a benefit-based incentive. A random selection could be a raffle prize offered to a select amount of people who participate. Everyone gets involved since there is a chance to win something like a gift card or game tickets. Benefits-based incentives could be a contribution to a Health Savings Account (HSA) card, paid time off or discounts on an insurance plan.
 
Companies can look at retrospective health data to discern what conditions their employees have and tailor a program. They can also choose to do more broad topics like a Stress Management Workshop, Meal Preparation Workshop or a Healthy Cooking Class.
 
Ultimately, countless studies have shown the cost effectiveness of having wellness programming in a corporate environment. Happy and healthy employees perform better, are sick less and have greater overall health outcomes.
 
References
  1. Annand-Keller P, Lehmann D, Milligan K. Effectiveness of corporate well-being programs. J Macromarketing. 2009; 29(3):279-302.
  2. Ciccone, Alicia. Unhealthy Employees Cost Businesses 3 Billion In Lost Productivity. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/unhealthy-employees-cost-153-billion_n_1016568.html. Accessed March 28, 2018.