"Companies that are committed to wellness believe employee health is a competitive advantage," adds Jim Hummer, president of Cleveland-based Whole Health Management, which operates health centers for corporate clients.

A competitive advantage that can generate big dollars for sponsoring companies. According to the Wellness Councils of America, an Omaha, Nebraska, company that is a leader in work-site wellness promotions, bottom line results include:

- $1.42 returned for every dollar invested in wellness by Dupont.

- $3.40 returned for every dollar spent on wellness by Travelers Corp.

- $1.68 returned for every dollar spent by Las Vegas,

- Nevada-based Reynolds Electrical & Engineering.

Another case in point: A nine-year study of some 18,000 domestic employees who participated in J&J's wellness programs showed that the company saved an average of $225 per employee per year.

The healthiest approach
Corporate wellness programs vary widely. Some programs consist of monthly health-related speakers - perhaps a cardiologist talking about diet's impact on heart disease, for example. Keeping stacks of health-info brochures on hand is the only follow-up.

Other companies - "a fast-growing number," says Ceridian's Bragen - are taking steps to provide employees with more formalized, ongoing offerings. And at least some companies are so persuaded about the benefits that they are dangling tasty incentives in front of participating employees.

At Provo, Utah-based Nu Skin Enterprises, a developer of nutritional products, about 1,200 employees (of 1,500 total) actively participate in a comprehensive program that involves lab tests, personal exercise and diet plans, and occasional, 15-minute one-on-one chats with staff wellness coordinator Brian Hunt. "Conservatively we believe we are getting a twofold return on every dollar invested in employee wellness," Hunt says.