The case for corporate wellness is compelling – daily, new studies are emerging proving corporate wellness programs are the driving force behind reduced absenteeism and health costs, increased employee health and greater productivity. Companies worldwide are identifying the profitable return on investment of workplace challenges and are introducing them into their workplace environment.
Below our researchers at Walk with Attitude, creators of 10,000 Steps USA, provide a snapshot of such findings, facts and discourse taken from professional journals, reliable websites and media articles, from around the world.
2010-2012: the world today – where the chair is comfortable...but deadly.
‘In the 1hr before work, a person can use more than 50 labor devices. At work, between logging-on to logging-off, a person can remain nearly continuously in their chair. At the end of the work-day, if the home is the castle, the chair is its throne. From their throne, a person can order food, purchase a car, find a new life-partner and play war; all this – and more – without ever getting up. With creativity, a person can eat, work, reproduce, play, shop, and sleep without taking a step.’ Health-Chair Reform, Your Chair: Comfortable but Deadly, James Levine, Perspectives in Diabetes vol. 59, November 2010
The damage caused by today’s sedentary workforce: what are the stats?
The deterioration of employee physical and mental health
In the US alone, people with chronic disease account for more than 75% of the nation’s US$2 trillion in medical spending. The impact of chronic disease is placing an increasing burden on health systems, taxes and costs of coverage, which increasingly burdens organisations and their employees. Working Towards Wellness: The Business Rationale, PricewaterhouseCoopers, World Economic Forum, 2008
According to a study by the American Cancer Society, men who spend more than 6 hours of their daily leisure time sitting have a mortality rate 20% higher than men who sit for half that time or less. Among women who sit for 6 hours or more a day, the mortality rate doubles. Fitness: Don’t just sit there, it’s dangerous, Jill Barker, The Montreal Gazette, 16 November 2011
The dramatic erosion of employee motivation
The 2011 Global Mindset Index (GMI) found that more than one fifth of 1,071 employees surveyed across all industries were depressed. Respondents identified with five or more of the key symptoms of depression outlined by the World Health Organisation.Only 12% of the global workforce felt optimistic and just 14% found their bosses inspirational. ‘For all organisations, this degree of malcontent can only result in negative outcomes: efficiency and effectiveness will come into question, and in more serious cases, retention of key staff...will be extremely difficult,’ the report concludes. 2011: Don’t Stop Believing: Global Mindset Index, RogenSi, 2011
The costly impact of sickness and stress on employee productivity
Job stress costs $200 billion to $300 billion annually in lost productivity, tardiness and absenteeism reports the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center. The Upside of Exercise: Corporate wellness programs boost employees – and benefit the businesses that pay for them, Frank Jossi, StarTribune, 28 September 2011
Research shows employees with poor overall health take up to 9 times more sick leave than their healthy colleagues. Healthy employees are nearly 3 times more productive than employees with poor health. A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2009
And the escalating cost of employee ill health continues to reach unprecedented heights
The total cost of obesity to U.S. employers is US $13 billion per year, according to the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center. The Upside of Exercise: Corporate wellness programs boost employees – and benefit the businesses that pay for them, Frank Jossi, StarTribune, 28 September 2011
For every US $1 spent on medical and pharmaceutical costs, there is US $2.30 of health-related productivity losses due to absenteeism and presenteeism. Health and Productivity as a Business Strategy, a Multiemployer Study, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine April 2009
Now the good news: studies provide overwhelming evidence that workplace wellness programs reduce the negative impacts of a sedentary workforce.
A leap in productivity
In 2008, Dow Health Services’ health and productivity program helped save more than 7,000 workdays that would have been lost to injury and illnesses. The company saved more than US$3 million in the United States alone. Adding the savings from the reversal of “lost” productivity, the total was more than US$9 million. Staying@Work Report 2009/2010: The Health and Productivity Advantage, National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson 2010
Increased employee health & longevity
Greater staff morale & mental agility
In a Body-Brain Performance Institute and Swinburne University Brain Sciences Institute walking study, 40 employees were tested for brain function, including the ability to plan, remember, simulate future scenarios and make decisions as well as their alertness, energy levels and levels of anger and stress. The research showed a clear link between vigorous physical activity, increased brain function and reduced stress levels at work. 10,000 Steps a Day Make a Happy and Productive Employee, Anne Witter, International Business Times, 16 September 2011
A return on investment that’s second to none
In a walking study
conducted by theBody-Brain Performance Institute and Swinburne University Brain Sciences Institute, employees who took 10,000 steps a day and went to the gym three times a week yielded $2,500 worth of productivity annually to a company. 10,000 Steps a Day Make a Happy and Productive Employee, Anne Witter, International Business Times, 16 September 2011
A meta-analysis of workplace disease prevention and wellness programs found that for every US $1 spent on the program, medical costs dropped by US $3.27 and absenteeism costs dropped by US $2.73. Worksite Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings, Health Affairs, February 2010
Johnson & Johnson leaders estimate that wellness programs have saved their company A$250 million on health care costs over the past decade. From 2002 to 2008, the return was A$2.71 for every dollar spent. What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?, Harvard Business Review, December 2010
Greater staff retention
A Towers Watson and National Business Group on Health study revealed that organisations with effective wellness programs experience significantly lower voluntary attrition (9% versus 15%) by their employees. What’s the Hard Return on Employee Wellness Programs?, Harvard Business Review, December 2010
Why pedometer-based 10,000 step challenges in particular, are yielding remarkable results
Researchers found that the average pedometer user saw an increase of more than 2,100 steps per day when using a pedometer. They also determined that walkers were more successful if they had a goal of reaching 10,000 steps a day. Using Pedometers to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health, Journal of the American Medical Association, November 2007
Where to next? An expert’s view of what the future holds for workplace wellness.
Dee Edington, Director of the University of Michigan Health Management Research Center says, “No company will be successful in a globally competitive world with anything but healthy and productive people. Senior leaders who embrace the new health care model that positions wellness first and integrates this strategy into the organisation’s environment and culture will create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
For more statistical evidence of the impact workplace wellness programs have on employees, please refer to the below reports.
Staying@Work Report 2009/2010: The Health and Productivity Advantage, National Business Group on Health and Towers Watson 2010
Workers Suffer GFC Blues, Meera Vijayan, The Australian, September 18 2010
A Guide to Promoting Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, ACT Occupational Health and Safety Commission, 2009
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