Wellness and Productivity: Maximizing the Impact
By Glenn Pransky, MD
Lincoln Financial Group
Employers are concerned about the health of their workers. Unhealthy workers are more frequently absent, have more work injuries, are less productive, and have higher healthcare costs. Many employers feel that wellness programs are the best available solution for these challenges, as they have been linked to lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism, and increased productivity in enrolled employees. As a result, workplace wellness has become an $8 billion industry. To maximize program participation, most employers add financial incentives — for enrollment, participation, or achieving desired health outcomes. These incentives have become more popular since they were specifically encouraged by the Affordable Care Act.
How effective are these programs and associated incentives? A large, high-quality employee wellness study at the University of Illinois1 demonstrated no effect on healthcare spending, productivity, or absenteeism, and employees with higher health risks were less likely to participate. Another randomized trial of workplace weight loss interventions had similar negative results.2
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