What exactly is workplace wellness?

Understandably, employers view workplace wellness in different terms than do employees. Although employers have traditionally provided healthcare coverage as an employment benefit, they typically are more focused on having employees that show up for work and are productive. Employees, on the other hand, want access to care that this is affordable and accessible.

Corporate Wellness Magazine points out that employers recognize that they have a role in workplace wellness efforts because:

  • Healthier employees have fewer accidents and are more productive
  • Healthier employees show up for work more often, reducing the organization’s absenteeism rate
  • The organization’s overall healthcare costs are lower when employees are healthy
  • If the employer offers a good wellness program, it will help in attracting and retaining quality talent.

Clearly, that is not the entire workplace wellness picture. The definition of a “good wellness program” is not clear among many employers. Even with employer efforts to provide quality healthcare coverage for their employees, Corporate Wellness points out that the US has “most expensive health care system in the world, with some of the worst health outcomes.” Chronic illness is a significant contributor to those costs and outcomes, even though over 80 percent of chronic illness is preventable.

True workplace wellness focuses on preventative care. Wellness is not simply treating symptoms; rather, it is preventing illness. Worksite clinics that offer primary care, immunizations, well checks, and other preventative services can contribute to the overall level of workplace wellness for an employer and its employees.

Of course, employees must be encouraged to use their healthcare benefits. In the case of on-site clinics, employees may hesitate to take advantage of the convenient medical services out of fear that their employer will have access to their medical records. Wellness programs such as fitness classes, weight management and smoking cessation clinics, can also contribute to the quality of wellness among employees in the workplace.

These quality outcomes can positively impact employers, who are focused on decreasing absenteeism and increasing productivity, as well as their employees, who can realize true wellness as a result of using their workplace benefits for preventative care.