Workplace wellness programs are practically universal in large enterprises today. Part of the push has come from rising employer healthcare costs. But in addition to controlling chronic conditions and reducing absenteeism, the best leaders know they also help to attract quality talent, reduce turnover, and improve workplace productivity.
The result is that corporate wellness programs have skyrocketed into a multi-billion dollar industry over the past few years, and this number is expected to grow to $11.3 billion by 2021.
But unless you work in one of these large enterprises, with seemingly bottomless budgets for employee perks, you’re likely being asked to justify wellness program investments. So the question arises: are employers seeing a return on their investment with corporate wellness programs?
One department who should be paying particularly close attention to the return on wellness programs is customer service, where productivity is often measured in dollars and cents. If these programs actually improve performance and turnover, the ROI would be tangible, fast, and significant.
And you might assume that with so much money being pumped into corporate wellness programs, employers are seeing a major savings in healthcare costs. However, this may not be the case.
The nonprofit think tank, RAND Corp., conducted a Wellness Program Study, analyzing these numbers. The results show “that wellness programs are having little if any immediate effects on the amount employers spend on health care.” This data was substantiated by their analysis of a Fortune 100 company over the past ten years that looked at two common components found in wellness programs: lifestyle management and disease management.
Based on the data, the two components did reduce average health care costs by roughly $30 per member per month (PMPM). However, the bulk of this savings came from the disease management component – 87% – as employees participating in this program saved the employer $136 PMPM. This was driven in large part by a reduction in hospital admissions by about 30%.
What’s also interesting to note is that only 13% of employees participated in the disease management program versus an 87% participation rate for the lifestyle management component. And while the lifestyle component did reduce absenteeism by a little more than one hour per employee per year, the savings generated by this number were “not enough to make the program pay off financially.”
Fortunately, despite rising healthcare costs, not all employers prioritize corporate wellness programs as a cost reduction to their benefits packages. Many business leaders view wellness programs as an investment in human capital, which can net a greater long-term value from good employee health. Healthier employees can bring about benefits that are hard to measure – like job satisfaction and employee engagement – but are benefits, nonetheless.
Workplace wellness programs can also be used as a tool to attract and hire better quality talent and have a direct positive impact on employee retention. Within customer service, a department in which turnover is a constant battle, corporate wellness programs reduce recruiting and on-boarding costs.
For customer service leaders looking at wellness programs to reduce turnover and improve employee engagement and productivity, success or failure often hinges on the understanding that your workforce is incredibly diverse. Providing a variety of options, consistently over time, and with an emphasis on fostering connections are hallmarks of programs that garner the highest ROI.
Here are a few ideas for customer service leaders to consider:
Promote Healthy Happy Hours
Instead of promoting a traditional happy hour after work in which alcohol is being served – and employees kvetch about their job – why not offer and promote a healthy happy hour instead? Look for times during the day when productivity tends to dip, and offer interactive sessions from wellness experts on a variety of topics. The location of these experts or even the reps doesn’t need to limit participation. Enterprise grade video conferencing makes joining in on the happy hours simple from any location or device.
Instead of an afternoon coffee run, why not provide the ingredients and instructions for a healthy smoothie alternative? Remote reps can get the shopping list in advance and then post on a team chat on how it turned out or what they changed to make it their own.
Set up Collaboration Groups and Foster Healthy Engagement
The Motley Fool knows a thing or two about encouraging collaboration within their wellness programs. With their free spinning classes and boot camps to in-house subsidized massages and more, different departments that have limited interaction are encouraged to come together and collaborate in a fitness class.
And for employees interested in participating in a race of any kind, Motley Fool reimburses 50% of the total cost.
The power of human connections on our health is well-documented. The Mayo Clinic recently stated that “Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). Studies have even found that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.”
So the best company or customer service wellness programs will take steps to encourage employee connections. Fortunately, many companies already have collaboration technology in place to foster connections. It’s simply a matter of inviting the use of these tools for wellness programs.
Well-run companies value collaboration. And it’s not just collaboration to generate new business ideas or to solve a problem that companies focus on. Collaboration can also be used to help bring team members together to swap recipes, schedule before or after work runs, or provide support and words of encouragement.
Software like Microsoft Teams, can be used to start grass roots wellness initiatives with sticking power. What starts as an open invitation for an after-work run can become a close-knit group of running enthusiasts that motivate, and support each other. A team member who has seen great benefits from meditation can connect with others who have wanted to try it, and encourage each other to maintain a regular practice.
Encourage Customer Service Reps to Work from Home
It’s not uncommon for large companies to have their customer support teams work from home. Working from home can come with a lot of great benefits as your team can work from an environment in which they are comfortable.
If you’re nervous about never seeing your reps at their desks, remember: you can have customer service reps work from home all the time or just occasionally. And equipping them with enterprise grade video conferencing means you can actually see them whenever they’re at their desk, even if that desk is in their home office.
Working from home has the potential to create healthier habits. Instead of a commute, employees can get a workout in before they sit down at their desk for the day. Instead of pinning more healthy lunch ideas on Pinterest than you actually bring to the office, reps working from home have access to their whole kitchen when lunchtime rolls around. Avoiding the “calories that no one sees me consume don’t count” mentality comes back, once again, to fostering those relationships that motivate us and hold us accountable.
Large enterprises will continue to spend more money and resources on wellness programs for years to come. If you’re not one of the lucky few with a blank check to reinvest in your employees, consider leveraging the collaboration technology you may already have to give access to health information and foster connections across your workforce. Though you may not see a dollar-for-dollar return in terms of reduced healthcare costs, customer service leaders can attract better quality talent, reduce turnover, and enhance employee productivity. In the long-run, this turns into a much healthier ROI when justifying the impact wellness programs have in terms of workplace performance.