Are Workplace Wellness Programs Overrated?


Workplace wellness programs are all the rage these days. They promise to improve health and reduce healthcare costs. Small businesses to large corporations nationwide are implementing programs and incentivizing employees to participate. But is it all a fad? Are workplace wellness programs an overrated, additional expense for employers—or do they offer a real benefit to employers and employees? 

Justifying Costs

Money makes the world—especially the business world—go around. So why should employers take on the added expense of implementing a wellness program? Because unhealthy employees are costing companies a lot of money:

  • Overweight or obese full-time U.S. workers with other chronic health problems cost more than $153 billion a year in lost productivity and miss nearly 450 million more workdays than healthy workers.1
  • Lost productivity from chronic pain costs $11.6 to $12.8 billion2
  • Employees who go to work when sick account for nearly two-thirds of total costs of worker illness.3 

Getting Too Personal

Some argue that employers shouldn’t be involved in the health of their employees; however, wellness programs that are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) are confidential, and the Protected Health Information (PHI) of employees isn’t shared with employers. Plus, the line between work/life balance is more blurred than ever:

  • Three out of five employees want employers to play an active role in improving their health.
  • The number one workplace health issue is work-related stress—higher than physical inactivity and obesity—and a major occupational risk.4
  • Fatigue and inadequate sleep affect a company’s profitability due to errors, reduced productivity, and safety issues.5

Seeing Real Value

How will employers know that healthcare costs and risks are reducing? Wellness programs with on-demand reporting and claims integration allow employers to validate offerings and implement beneficial changes. Here are some statistics Viverae® clients have experienced:

  • Utilization of Disease Management (DM) and Coaching services showed $724.04 per participant annual cost savings over three years.6
  • Overall risk factor reduction of 5 percent over five years.7
  • Average medical claims cost reduction of 3 percent.8

Compliant and effective wellness programs are far from overrated—they offer both quantitative and qualitative value and benefits for both employers and their employees. Of course, not all wellness programs are created equal. Check out our top 10 best practices for creating a wellness program or choosing a workplace wellness provider.


1 2011 Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index; 2 NIH, 2008; 3 Harvard Business Review; 4 2013 Towers Watson Survey; 5 Moore-Ede, 2011; Rosekind et al. 2010; Sirois, 2007; 6 Viverae 2015 Book of Business (3-year cohort); 7 Viverae 2015 Book of Business (5-year cohort); 8 Viverae client-specific data from participation reports




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