Is the secret to wellness programs a single, intensive training?
- A 2.5-day well-being intervention lifted employees' energy levels and enhanced their sense of purpose in a way that lasted for at least six months, researchers at Tufts University found. The researchers said the study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, is the first to show that an intervention can improve employees' physical and mental well-being for a considerable amount of time. Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions funded and contributed to the authorship of the study.
- In the intervention, professional coaches taught diverse groups of employees techniques for raising their energy levels, setting short- and long-term goals, forging their own purpose in life, and understanding feedback from family, coworkers and other important people in their lives. The study was based on National Institute for Health Care and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines to reduce the chances of bias or weaknesses showing up in the results.
- According to previous studies cited by the authors, employees who aren't fully functioning on the job cost employers $250 billion annually, more than the $225 billion annual cost of absenteeism due to health-related illnesses, both physical and psychological.
Whether or not wellness programs actually do what they purport to do has long been debated in the HR space, compounded by continued confusion over how to measure their return on investment (ROI). Most employees in a 2017 Willis Towers Watson study (61%) said their employers' well-being programs don't meet their needs. Another study found that in the first year of a well-being program, there were no significant improvements in employees' healthcare costs, health status or productivity.
Other findings have shown that employers may need to expand their programs beyond the tried and true basics to see results. A study released in March concluded that for workers to get the maximum benefit out of a well-being plan, employers must expand their offerings to cover stress reduction, job security, workplace fatigue, overtime management and flu shots.
Perhaps an intensive, three-day intervention can produce the desired effects for employers' ROI and workers' physical and mental well-being. And even if it doesn't, most studies agree that such programs at least tend to have benefits for retention and recruitment.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated where information about the cost of absenteeism came from. It came from previous studies completed in 2010.
- American Journal of Health Promotion Effectiveness of an Energy Management Training Course on Employee Well-Being: A Randomized Controlled Trial