Employee Wellness: A Strategic Imperative

Companies that place a premium on their employees’ health and wellness are seeing significant increases in both productivity and profit.

There has been a broad shift in what employees, and what the wider public, expect from corporations today. In 2019, Business Roundtablean association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies — released its “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” where it highlights, among other core values, “Investing in our employees. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important benefits...”. According to a 2020 survey by the independent nonprofit research organization, JUST Capital, which polled 110,000 employees, found that, “When it comes to what Americans want from corporate America today, worker pay and well-being continue to be core priorities.”

Changing demographics, as well as the twin catastrophes of the Covid-19 pandemic and racial injustice, have moved the needle and highlighted the growing need for what has been termed “Corporate Wellness”. An ethos that prioritizes worker well-being as much as stock returns and growth has surfaced and is changing the way corporations and their CEOs are being judged. More and more, companies that place a premium on their employees’ health and wellness are seeing not just better PR but significant increases in both productivity and profit, including better employee recruitment and retention.

Digging into what a responsible corporate culture — one that controls for its employees’ well-being — actually looks like, we find some broad metrics to consider. Due to Covid-19, workforces have become increasingly distributed and traditional wellness benefits, such as gym subsidies and workplace wellness benefits, are unavailable. Additionally, an increased focus on personal wellness has created a demand for health supplements and at-home fitness. As a result, companies are finding new ways to optimize the health of their team members. With the rise of personalized wellness, companies can now offer a range of HR benefits that focus on customized preventative care. These can include, for example, supplement programs, tailored to an employees’ specific health needs and delivered directly to their doors; high-quality meal plans that, again, can be delivered to employees’ homes; and fast, accurate DNA testing which can indicate someone’s genetic predisposition for some chronic conditions.

Additionally, as companies begin to set processes in place to help manage the safe return of their employees, many are using these and other corporate wellness strategies as a roadmap. These companies understand that they shoulder many of the indirect costs associated with employee ill health, and, alternatively, they know they also stand to reap the benefits of a strong, healthy team, i.e., better productivity, improved employee retention, greater decision-making skills and better team unity among staff. The Harvard Business Review credits the leaders of Johnson and Johnson’s for implementing a robust employee wellness plan, which “cumulatively saved the company $250 million on health care costs over [a] decade...and the return was $2.71 for every dollar spent.”

As events over the past year have upended many of the old, established businesses paradigms, and corporations like Microsoft, Salesforce, Alphabet, VMware, and Nvidia are leading the way in redefining and rethinking their relationship with their employees, many see an opportunity to remake the U.S. corporate landscape into one that emphasizes better, more transparent responsibility and commitment to its workers.

As data indicates, individuals have never been so invested in their health and wellness. Corporate entities that will see long term success are those who understand that it’s incumbent on them to support their employees with not just a paycheck, but a suite of benefits that prioritizes health and wellness.