In response to rising health care costs, numerous U.S. companies offer corporate fitness and wellness options to employees. “The most important thing a company can offer employees to advance wellness is a willingness to meet employees needs no matter what stage they are at in their wellness journey,” says Marianne Jackson, senior vice president of human resources at Blue Shield of California. “By keeping the healthy well, companies can lower health care costs and increase employee productivity.”
Weight-Loss Programs: Obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges of all time, and the annual medical costs associated with obesity are estimated to be as high as $147 billion in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data for 2009, more than 1 in 4 U.S. adults were obese. Obesity is an important driver of costs in the workplace, so companies offer programs that help employees lose weight. Lopez Negrete Communications, a Houston-based marketing agency, sponsored a weight-loss contest in 2010 in which the winner was awarded $1,000.
Exercise While You Work: If you’ve ever postponed a workout so that you could meet a last-minute deadline or type out one last email, it might be time to replace your work station with a treadmill that comes equipped with space for a laptop. According to the Mayo Clinic, a “walk-and-work approach” could mean that office workers who are overweight or obese could lose 44 to 60 pounds in a year by replacing sedentary computer time with walking on an office treadmill for two or three hours each day.
On-Site Massage Programs: According to a spokesperson from Plano, TX.-based Alliance Data, a marketing agency with an award-winning employee wellness program, on-site massage is becoming a popular offering. While Mayo Clinic has reported that massage has positive effects on mental and physical health, an additional benefit is cost-effectiveness. For employers, on-site massage bears little to no overhead cost and is valuable because employees will feel the positive impact immediately.
Financial Incentives to Get Fit: To help lower overall costs, companies sometimes offer incentives such as cash gifts or bonuses for people who lose weight, quit smoking and make other positive lifestyle changes. At Blue Shield of California, employees are encouraged to participate in free biometric screenings and wellness assessments and can earn discounts on their medical plans or a health day off, which is a paid day off intended for relaxation and rejuvenation.