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poof! no more employer-provided benefits. would employee wellness programs still exist?

November 20, 2009

in wellness

play along with me here…

let’s imagine u.s. companies are no longer in the benefits game. would they still be interested in employee well-being? or with a prime motivator—rising premiums—stripped away, would they suddenly pack up shop?

a good friend said they would, while i argued they’d stick with it for the other workforce benefits: increased productivity, lowered presenteeism and absenteeism, and “great employer” points, to highlight a few key ones. companies around the world seem to agree, as do lots of others—in hr and not.

what say you?

f

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

David Ballard November 20, 2009 at 10:42 am

The smart ones would be. Employers are increasingly coming to understand that employee well-being and organizational performance are inextricably linked. While controlling health care costs is important, health and wellness efforts also affect productivity, absenteeism and accident/injury rates, along with other employee and organizational outcomes. Robust wellness offerings can also serve as a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting an retaining the best and brightest. Regardless of how health care is financed, if you want a healthy, high-performing company, you need healthy, high-performing employees.

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laurie ruettimann November 20, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Companies would drop this like a hot potato. I hope employees demand better wages and merit increases in lieu of the employer costs related to insurance, coverage, and wellness plans.

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Kevin W. Grossman November 20, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I agree with David. I hope the smart ones keep it and encourage their employees to take frickin’ care of themselves so they show up focused and energized. Repeat, take frickin’ care of themselves.

But Laurie may be right. We don’t offer any health benefits at our firm, nor do we have a formal wellness program. We’re too small, but we do encourage wellness, our most of our staff are quite physically active and focus on personal wellness, even those who struggle with illness and syndrome.

We do try to make it up in competitive salaries, telecommuting (so you can stay at home and eat onion rings), flexible schedules and twice the amount of time off per year that most American firms offer.

Repeat, take frickin’ care of yourselves.

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fran November 20, 2009 at 4:02 pm

david, that’s the way i see it, for sure.

laurie, i’m shocked. we disagree?! y’know, i actually hope we get the chance to see which way it’d play out.

kevin, in my book, telecommuting (with onion rings — and don’t forget the ben & jerry’s) and flexible schedules are wellness efforts.

f

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KD November 20, 2009 at 4:27 pm

People who exercise have better energy and more capacity to think creatively with lower stress. Therefore, I’d keep offering and perhaps increase the spend.

Because, really, what could go wrong with the government handling this, right? I’m sure wellness will be a part of their focus. LOL…

KD

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fran November 20, 2009 at 5:49 pm

kd, re: gov’t…oh ye of little faith.

f

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Paul Hebert November 23, 2009 at 7:26 am

The facts are the facts – healthier employees probably do have better presenteeism, can be more creative (although I could throw in some booze-sodden and drug-addled writers, painters, thinkers in as counterpoint but those typically are only good for the short term), and possibly be better for the organization in the long run.

However, the point is that wellness programs – programs that “pay” people to be healthier will disappear when the financial benefit of having them has less impact on the bottom line.

I do believe that many companies will continue to invest in things that speak to a “healthy mind set” – to attract those specific employee types – but that will be a function of the culture of the org – not the financial gain of the organization. In effect, the employee population will self-select those organizations that offer benefits that fit their lifestyle versus companies trying to change the employees they already have.

Companies, who have the ability to attract talent based on the work they do, the pay, the opportunity, the location, etc. will have more than enough stuff to keep their talent pipeline full and enough incentives for the individual to stay and won’t look to BMI and smoking as issues to focus on in their workforce.

I won’t say ALL companies will eliminate wellness initiatives – but the majority will channel those dollars somewhere else the minute they are off the hook for health premiums.

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Bonita Martin November 23, 2009 at 9:41 am

If companies no longer pay for employee healthcare, wellness programs will be gone, except for companies whose CEO is into health and wellness or companies who are in a healthcare related biz. Business are in the wellness game to lower healthcare costs. All of the other positive benefits are gravy.

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fran November 24, 2009 at 8:52 am

bonita and paul, i respectfully disagree. the buck report i referenced in the post shows many countries without an employer-provided benefits system still focus on wellness — for business reasons.

f

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Paul Hebert November 24, 2009 at 9:17 am

The statement from that report is: “surveyed over 1,000 organizations in 45 countries and found that, globally, health promotion that focuses on worker productivity is spreading.”

Read: as long as it impact my bottom line I’m doing it.

I don’t dispute that greater health “can” lead to productivity and increased financial performance – I’m just saying that companies (not the new age ones with enlightened mgt) care more about P/L than LDL… just sayin’

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