It's your business: More companies investing in workplace wellness

BATON ROUGE, LA - More companies are starting to encourage wellness in the workplace, but what does that actually mean? And is their investment paying off?

In the latest issue of the Business Report, they take a look at a growing trend – companies investing in employee wellness programs - and in some cases we're talking serious investments.

The MMR group, which specializes in electrical and instrumentation construction, transformed one of its onsite buildings last year into a 10-thousand square foot workout facility with treadmills, weight racks, a boot camp area and a basketball court.

The company spent more than $1-million on the facility and also pays for a trainer two hours a day and catered sandwiches four days a week. But company officials and their 400 employees locally say it's worth it.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is another. Several years ago they built an onsite workout room, an outdoor walking track, biometric testing and a fleet of online programs to help their more than 2-thousand employees focus on better eating and exercise.

Now, those are two extreme examples. Some wellness programs at smaller companies are much smaller in scale. Maybe they offer discounted memberships to the YMCA or group fitness challenges or access to wellness and workout programs, but whatever form they take, employee wellness programs are big business.

The wellness industry is a $6-billion industry, and half of all employers with 50 or more employees offers some type of wellness program. There are several reasons.

Of course, healthier employees are more productive employees, they're happier employees, they save money for the company in the long run in insurance claims, and a wellness program is something of a recruiting tool that can make the company more attractive to potential new hires.

One of the interesting things that the article talks about, though, is that while it's hard to dispute the value of wellness, pinning down a return on investment in employee wellness programs has proven vexing for companies for a couple of reasons.

For one thing there is fluctuating participation and the challenge in monitoring the health of a population subset that may change jobs.

An even bigger problem is that previous assumptions that wellness programs return $3 for every $1 spent may be misleading. The biggest yield actually comes from helping employees already struggling with health issues stay out of the hospital where the cost is highest.

This doesn't mean companies aren't doing this - they still are - but the benefit is not an immediate dollar for dollar.

CLICK HERE to read the full story in the Business Report.