Voluntary wellness programs may be increasing employee retention and productivity.
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Wellness programs can promote employee engagement, retention and productivity

Experts are speaking out on the positive impact employee wellness programs can have on an organization's growth, productivity and retention rates. 

A survey from health care technology company HealthMine Inc. found that 62 percent of the 750 wellness plan participants surveyed felt their programs were helping to lower their medical costs. Additionally, 38 percent felt wellness programs led to a reduction in the number of sick days they took, and 33 percent said their wellness program helped them be more productive.

"Healthier populations carry less risk, have fewer claims and lower premiums," Bryce Williams, CEO and President of HealthMine, said in a statement. "So, it's true that wellness programs have the potential to improve health and lower costs for the entire population, one person at a time. The benefits of successful wellness programs are cumulative."

Using wellness programs for positive growth
As Bloomberg BNA reported, human resources professionals speaking at the WorldatWork Total Rewards conference in San Diego said wellness programs can do more than reduce health care costs. A well-designed wellness program can also be used to engage employees and encourage productivity and growth. Experts speaking at the conference noted many businesses are tracking multiple metrics to see how wellness programs positively influence the company's growth. Factors that can be affected by wellness programs include employee engagement, turnover, absenteeism, productivity and recruitment/referral rates.

"Businesses are tracking multiple metrics to see how wellness programs positively influence the company's growth."

"At the end of the day, good health is good business," Lauren Benz, a clinical account manager at MVP Health Care, said at the conference. "We're now in a huge global market, so for you to remain competitive you need to have a healthy workforce because a healthy workforce will outperform an unhealthy workforce time and time again."

A second panelist, Dan Harding, director of employee relations at MVP Health Care, noted that when designing an employee wellness program, human resources professionals should be sure the branding of the program aligns with that of the company. Participation in a wellness program will likely be higher if the program's values and mission echo those of the business, which will likely resonate with its employees.

Harding further noted that while employers will want to see a return on investment for their wellness programs, it's important to track more than reduced health care costs when determining the program's ROI. Wellness programs that focus on employee engagement and well-being tend to have higher ROI than those simply looking at health cost reduction, Harding asserted.

When structuring wellness programs, risk managers should also ensure the program is in compliance with health privacy regulations outlined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Obama administration recently issued rules defining how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act apply to wellness programs offered by employers that request health information from employees and their spouses. These guidelines include regulations for data encryption and breach notification, as well as restrictions on wellness screen programs. The new EEOC wellness plan rules take effect on Jan. 1. 2017, and risk managers can review the full regulations through the Federal Register.