It’s been well documented that effective corporate health wellness programs have produced positive results for employees and employers over the past twenty years. Probably the most studied, extensive and longest running program is Johnson and Johnson’s “Live for Life”(now called the “J&J Health Wellness Program”) which was rolled out in 1979. Incredibly, due to both financial incentives and a corporate culture that actively promotes healthy behavior, 90% of J&J’s US employees have participated. And considering this includes a pool of 45,000+ employees, the statistics derived from the study are significant.
Defining that a successful health and wellness program, “…must demonstrate that they can improve the risk profile of employees as a whole, and, in particular, those employees at highest risk.”, the study found that J&J’s program has done just that. Additionally, as I’m sure they had hoped, helping their workforce become healthier also helped J&J’s bottom line. Overall it was calculated that their Health & Wellness program saved J&J $38 million from 1995 – 1999.
When they detailed where the savings was realized, which approximated $224 per employee per year, over $70 of that figure was due a reduction in mental health visits. Certainly, a significant portion of these mental health visits were stress related. A Yale University Study cited on the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health(NIOSH) website found that 29% of employees “feel quite a bit or extremely stressed at work”.
Apparently the J&J health wellness program did a good job addressing stress related issues. And they probably picked up a bonus here as well. While more difficult to measure, it’s not hard to imagine that someone who is less stressed is also likely to be a more productive employee.
But there’s good reason to believe that health wellness programs alone are not dealing with the primary root causes of stress. According to a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association 73% of the respondents cited money as a significant source of stress in their lives. And a recent WebMD article cited an AP-AOL study which revealed that “debt-related stress was 14% higher in 2008 than in 2004. Those who report high levels of debt stress suffer from a range of stress-related illnesses including ulcers, migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, and heart attacks.”
When law enforcement officials are trying to track down criminal activity, their first step is often to “locate the money trail”. Similarly, I’ve found that for employees, their personal money trail is the source for all kinds of self defeating, stressful behaviors. While the term “work-life balance” implies a healthy lifestyle, gaining a “money-life balance” provides a vital dimension in the process toward personal wholeness and health.
The right Financial Wellness program can help your workers achieve this vital balance, while complementing and driving enhanced returns for your existing Health Wellness initiatives.
Here’s what to look for as you consider this critical addition:
- Its best to select a provider that is not associated with a financial provider even though it may be tempting to default to your 401(k) vendor. Trusted information is paramount here. If someone has something to gain by selling more mutual funds, there is reason to suspect the objectivity of the education.
- You’ll want a program that reaches employees in multiple ways including leveraging current web trends. New “Web 2.0” formats are being introduced to deliver financial education in engaging formats that deliver lots of information in just a few minutes. Blended with onsite workshops and personalized, education-only money coaching, employees can interact with the information however they feel most comfortable.
- And finally, to get buy-in from other key decision makers, look for a financial wellness program that provides the methodology, metrics and reporting tools to document year over year financial health improvement. While some measures may not be as direct as the Johnson and Johnson study, measuring a reduction in personal financial stress is doable. In fact, there is a well researched assessment tool called the “Personal Financial Wellness Score” which measures personal financial stress and compares an individual’s results to national averages.