Feature Article - September/October 2011

A Healthy Bottom Line

The Power of Inspiring Wellness

By Daniel Smith

In 2007, Louise Anderson, the head of Anderson Performance Improvement, launched a wellness program at her Minnesota-based enterprise. Fielding more and more inquiries from her corporate clients on wellness programs, Anderson thought it was important that her operation institute a wellness program to understand the framework and challenges clients face.

With 80 percent employee involvement, Anderson's wellness program engaged employees with daily tips and challenges. Employees soon began swapping healthy recipes and substituting fresh fruit for birthday cakes. Some employees began biking to work, others walked at lunch, and still others moved their meetings from the conference room to the road, where brainstorming meant talking and walking.

"It was contagious," said Anderson, whose internal wellness program earned the prestigious Circle of Excellence Award at the 2010 Motivation Show.

In spite of lingering economic instability, the use of wellness incentive programs continues to climb across the United States, largely the result of employers' increasing recognition that healthy employees enhance the bottom line. According to a 2011 report from Buck Consultants, 74 percent of employers now offer some form of wellness programs with incentives reaching as high as $3,000 per employee per year.

Why Have a Wellness Incentive Program?

By various estimates, as many as two-thirds of Americans engage in limited regular activity, while one in four fully avoid activity. This lack of activity, combined with an alarming rise in obesity, leads to health problems, from cardiovascular disease and diabetes to various forms of cancer. Many of these chronic illnesses are largely preventable through lifestyle and behavioral changes. As a result, businesses big and small have established wellness incentive programs to inspire employees, spur buy-in and reverse the discouraging trends.

After all, wellness incentive programs stand as an investment in any business venture's most critical and valuable asset: human capital.

As employees generally spend more than one-third of each day at the workplace, corporations play a vital role in individual lives. For those companies that embrace wellness, by way of sharing health-related information or providing preventive services, the benefits can be many.