Workplace wellness leads to lower health care costs
Measures are healthy for companies' bottom lines
There is no doubt that businesses are looking to run lean and mean in today's economy, but those that fail to make room for employee wellness are only supersizing future health care bills.
I commend Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his recently announced plans to pursue a workplace wellness program for city employees and encourage Chicago's other civic and business leaders to follow his lead.
Workplace wellness is not a passing trend or a human resources platitude. When implemented correctly, wellness programs are an incredibly effective tool for managing costs.
For every $1 spent on wellness measures, evidence shows medical expenses fall by more than $3.
The benefits don't stop there. Studies show workplace wellness programs also reduce absenteeism, boost productivity and build morale and company loyalty.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce has seen the positive effects of wellness offerings with our own employees. We've also seen those successes replicated at businesses including BlueStar Energy, recently ranked as one of the fastest growing companies in the Chicago area.
BlueStar is one of several local companies participating in Live Healthy Chicagoland, a workplace wellness initiative sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health and run by the chamber.
As a result of BlueStar's participation in the program, which combines on-site wellness resources with a 100-day exercise and weight-loss challenge, 46 BlueStar employees have lost more than 150 pounds and logged more than 1,000 hours of exercise.
Further, employees who never laced up a running shoe before January are competing in the Chicago Marathon next month.
Wellness offerings, from pedometer programs to regular "lunch and learns" on health topics, don't have to take much time or money. What's most important is a program's ability to help employees take an active role in managing their own health.
We've found successful strategies include:
•Offering incentives to boost participation. Small rewards, such as a Starbucks gift card or half a vacation day, can help to jump-start a program.
•Leading by example. Support from leadership is crucial to the success of a company's wellness efforts. An active chief executive is a powerful role model.
With health care costs continuing to rise, there's never been a better time to invest in the health of your employees and the future of your business. Let's work together toward the mayor's vision of making Chicago's workers the healthiest in the nation.
Jerry Roper is president and chief executive of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, which represents some 2,600 businesses in the area.