Amid the stress and tension most employees face on a daily basis in the workplace, wellness programs are setup to help alleviate the health risks brought on by prolonged stress. Along with the health benefits of wellness programs, they also maintain employee retention and job satisfaction. From the research, wellness programs have grown considerably since the 1980’s. Even though wellness programs are a direct cost to the employer, the positive benefits that they produce are a great return on investment for the business as a whole.
Further research also suggest that even in this economic climate, businesses should not be focusing on the costs of time and money for these wellness programs but should be looking at them as an asset that will give their business a competitive advantage over others. Still some businesses revert to the conventional wisdom that employees in the workplace need to focus solely on work and nothing else, however this unfashionable way of thinking is steadily in decline.
It is becoming the norm that large businesses are implementing employee wellness programs, as they recognize the lasting positive effects on the employee and the employer. The concept of well-being The Merriam-Webster dictionary (2012) defines well-being as “the state of being happy, healthy or prosperous”. What defines if a person is happy, healthy or prosperous? One could say that a happy person smiles a lot, says positive things or gives many hugs throughout the day. Healthy seems easy to discuss. If a person has good working body systems with no apparent diseases, then medical science could call them healthy.
A number could define prosperous. If a person makes over a certain income per year, then they would be considered prosperous. Right? Actually, no. What defines happiness, health and prosperity is “all the things that are important to how we think about and experience our lives” (Harter & Rath, 2010). We are not well, unless we subjectively perceive ourselves to be well. Human perception of well-being is the primary topic that has organizational researchers studying feverishly and examining, in relation to the workplace.
Organizational researches have been long aware of the human and financial costs of a lack of well-being or dysfunction and have specifically been looking at the employee’s perception of happiness, health and prosperity and the effects on workplace performance and retention. Through the years of study and research, a direct correlation between well-being and workplace performance has been proven. For the purpose of this discussion, we will narrow the focus to only two topics, the effects of perceived well-being on workplace retention and the effects of workplace wellness programs on perceived wellbeing and workplace retention.
Workplace Stress and job retention Organizational researchers are well aware of the fact that employee well-being is a director predictor of employee retention. In one longitudinal study, two researchers Wright and Bonett (1992) found that employees who tend to quit reported low job satisfaction and well-being. The leading factor in low job satisfaction is workplace stress causing dissatisfaction and hence lowered sense of well-being. Wright and Bonett (2007) later completed a study showing that a 1-point improvement in perceived well-being (based on a 7-point scale), increased the employees desire to remain on the job by 50 percent.
It is evident that workplace stress and dissatisfaction are very detrimental to employees and the organization as a whole. Workplace wellness programs and job retention Often times stress can lead to diseases and illness such as obesity, cardiovascular heart disease and the use of smoking to manage stress. According to Wright & Huang (2012), “employees involved in stressful work have higher levels of blood pressure” and that “costs associated with cardiovascular heart disease are quite consequential for both the employee and organization” (p. 1190).
Not only is health a factor with regard to stress and dissatisfaction, but job performance, employee retention, workplace accidents and absenteeism as well. Additionally, the overall profitability of the organization is another factor to consider when thinking about employee well-being in the workplace. Chronically ill employees demonstrate decreased job performance and increased absenteeism. Poor job performance and absenteeism costs organizations overall profit for every poor performance or missed day. One way in which organizations are dealing with this problem is to establish workplace wellness programs.
Baicker, Cutler and Song (2010) have found that organization’s interest in workplace disease prevention and wellness programs is increasing dramatically. In fact, “in 2006, 19 percent of companies with 500 or more workers reported offering wellness programs, while a 2008 survey of large manufacturing employers reported that 77 percent offered some kind of formal health and wellness program” (Baicker, Cutler & Song, 2010). The reason for this increase is the cost savings for the organization provided by wellness programs.
In a critical meta-analysis of the literature on costs and savings associated with such programs”, Baicker, Cutler and Song (2010) “found that medical costs fall by about $3. 27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2. 73 for every dollar spent”. A successful wellness program positively affects employees’ behavior by reducing barriers to change, such as through encouraging the completion of health-risk appraisals or participating in run-a-thons or walking competitions, for example.
Employees often find it difficult to stick with healthy changes over the long run. Wellness programs address potential roadblocks in the environment and influence employees’ perceptions about the importance of being and staying well, which is why they are so effective (Baun, Berry & Mirabito, 2011). Conclusion It is clear from the studies completed by organizational researchers that lowered employee well-being costs organizations profit dollars. Wellness programs are beneficial for both employees and employers (Voit, 2001).
Companies are able to save money through the wellness of their employees, while the employee is offered benefits with a variety of choices generally including one on one counseling (Voit, 2001). Further, at-risk populations are reached, ensuring that the wellness program benefits the maximum number of employees possible (Voit, 2001). Baun, Berry & Mirabita summarize wellness programs well in stating, “the point is that you aren’t paying for it. The wellness program provides a return to the company and is a benefit rather than a cost” (2011).