The Benefits of Holistic Approaches to Workplace Wellness Programs

31 March, 2017

In 2015, healthcare spending in the U.S. topped $3 trillion dollars annually; more recent statistics indicate that the costs of care continues to rise with a per capita expense of approximately $10,345 per (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid [CMS],2015; Alonso-Zaldivar, 2016).  Per the Centers for the Disease Control (CDC), approximately 75% of healthcare costs is directly attributed to the onset of chronic diseases (2015).  Chronic illnesses can be mitigated by eating nutritiously and being physically active; for most individuals affected, preventative health education initiatives can aid in reducing health disparities (CDC, 2015).

Many of the costs associated with providing care to patients who experience these illnesses are paid for through employer subsidized insurance programs; approximately 69% of employees receive some form of health insurance from their employers (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015).  The costs associated with maintaining these programs can be excessive, particularly when employees miss work because of illness.  Employers lose $160 billion dollars annually because of employees who are not performing at full productivity levels due to illness (Forbes, 2013; National Partnership, 2015). Health related absenteeism is often due to burnout, stress, depression, disengagement, illness, and injury (Forbes, 2013; CDC,2016; National Partnership, 2015).  The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index recently published survey results of 94,000 participants across 14 occupations; 77% of those surveyed identified themselves as having at least one form of a chronic disease (Forbes, 2013). Thus, employers have sought proactive and innovative ways to implement preventative care strategies that can save on insurance costs, improve employee morale, and increase productivity.

Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs

Over the past few years, workplace wellness programs have become more mainstream.  The goal of these programs is to utilize integrated, holistic wellness approaches to improve health outcomes (CDC, 2016).  Workplace wellness programs aid in promoting health-oriented activities at the organizational level that focus on improving health behaviors (Forbes, 2013; CDC,2016).  To implement these programs, employers often work with 3rd party providers that specialize in providing nutrition education, fitness training, medical screenings, and health coaching.  The most effective programs incorporate policies that embrace wellness as a component of the organizational culture and encourage employees to embrace health consciousness as a way of life (Forbes, 2013, CDC, 2016, National Partnership 2016). Effective management of workplace programs provides such benefits as (CDC, 2016; Krisberg, 2013):

  • improved work place morale  
  • decreased healthcare costs
  • a reduction in absenteeism
  • increased productivity
  • reduced operational costs
  • an increase in employee self-efficacy
  • reduced sick leave
  • reduced injuries
  • improved work performance
  • decreased insurance costs
  • increased employee retention

With so many benefits to reap, one cannot argue with investing in such programs. The question is, what is considered an effective workplace program, and what must it incorporate? Next blog will address these components.


  • Alonso-Zaldivar, R. (2016). $10,345 per person: U.S. health care spending reaches new peak. Retrieved from:
  • CDC. (2015). Chronic diseases. Retrieved from:
  • CDC. (2016). The CDC worksite health scorecard: An assessment tool for employers to prevent heart disease, stroke, and related health conditions. Retrieved from:
  • CMS. (2015). National health expenditures 2015 highlights. Retrieved from:
  • Forbes. (2013). The causes and costs of absenteeism in the workplace. Retrieved from:
  • National Partnership. (2015). Paid sick days lead to cost savings for all. Retrieved from:
  • KFF. (2015). 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey. Retrieved from:
  • Krisberg, K. (2013). Workplace wellness programs growing trend for employers: Affordable Care Act to play a role. Retrieved from: