Wellness Programs Can Supplement Business Insurance Cover

Benefits like business health insurance can contribute to higher levels of job satisfaction and help Australians cope with the impacts diseases, especially increasingly prevalent chronic conditions, have on their lives.

Executives hope their employees will never have to use these business-sponsored benefits for serious illnesses and chronic conditions, which has lead to the implementation of corporate wellness programs. These initiatives are aimed to improve employee diet and fitness, provide assistance to those who may want to quit smoking or adopt a more active lifestyle and support workers' mental health.

Such wellness programs have benefits for employees and businesses alike. Staff members who participate can improve their overall health, while companies can enjoy enhanced productivity and return on investment (ROI).

Despite this, relatively few employers in Australia have company-sponsored employee wellness programs. According to a 2010 Workplace Wellness in Australia survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), only 1,500 employers nationwide (taking into account both government bodies and private businesses) currently offer health assessment and intervention programs. This means that at the time the survey was conducted, fewer than 4 per cent of Australian employees have access to such benefits. 

The key to successful wellness programs

Simply deciding to start a wellness program isn't going to benefit anyone - the initiative needs to be carefully planned to maximise effectiveness and participation.

A 2012 report from the Health Enhancement Research Organisation (HERO) revealed the wellness programs that are most likely to succeed have a few traits in common. The research found the five most important drivers that boosted staff participation rates were: receiving an incentive to participate, conducting health needs assessments for individual employees, having senior team members join the programs, using branded communications and emphasising the importance of preventative measures that lower chronic disease risk.

A human resource department needs to carefully construct its message to ensure employees understand the ins and outs of the initiative, how it benefits them and exactly what it entails. Without proper communication, a strategy may fail due to a lack of awareness.

The case for wellness programs and ROI

It's a well-known fact: Unhealthy employees require more time away from the office, resulting in lost productivity, and may be distracted by pain throughout the day that prevents them from completing their duties to the best of their ability. These people are nine times more likely to take sick days than their healthy counterparts, according to the Queensland government.

These employees are more prevalent than one might think. The Queensland government also revealed that 1 in 7 individuals - more than 3 million people total - have a chronic disease. By being proactive and instituting a wellness program to complement a company-sponsored health plan, employees may be able to improve their overall health and remain more productive throughout the day. 

Workplace absenteeism, which is often attributed to illness, costs the Australian economy an estimated $7 billion each year, according to the PwC survey.

Besides enhanced productivity, employers may also benefit from lower turnover rates after implementing a wellness program, meaning recruiting and training costs can be cut over time. The PwC report revealed 54 per cent of employers created their wellness program from a "human capital perspective" or as a driver that would attract and retain key talent, limit employee absences and heighten productivity across the office.

By incorporating a wellness plan alongside a business health insurance policy, companies may be able to reap significant benefits in the long run.

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AMANDA TINNER

amanda.tinner@visaexecutive.com

+61 (0) 409 969 525

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Berry Treffers

Berry.Treffers@hica.com.au

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Michael van Schaik

MichaelV@lzr.com.au

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