Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, is committed to fostering its employees' health, just as it's committed to boosting its profits. And believe it or not, the two are related. Educational programs and an annual health fair have yielded big results: Some employees have quit smoking, others have lost weight, and many have improved their health so much that they've been able to stop taking medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Healthier employees have translated into lower costs and absenteeism.
"Wellness is very hot today," says Mary Wood, the company's health promotion program coordinator. "And employee interest keeps going up."
No one needs to tell us that engaging in regular exercise, quitting smoking, and managing our weight are good for us. But today, "companies are looking at employee wellness much more closely than they ever have," says Ronnie Bragen, product manager at Minneapolis-based Ceridian's LifeWorks Services, a developer of corporate wellness programs. Why? Jumps in health insurance premiums (double-digit increases in each of the last three years, according to benefits consulting firm Towers Perrin) have employers looking for ways to cut the need for healthcare services. Increasingly, comprehensive wellness programs are emerging as frontline weapons.
Less meds, more work
But still more is at work here: Employers are realizing that healthy workers are more productive, says Fikry Isaac, director of occupational medicine, health, and wellness at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey. "Productivity is definitely linked to health. Healthy employees have lower absenteeism and lower medical costs, too."