The difficult economic environment, a growing epidemic of workplace stress and the challenges of changing unhealthy lifestyles are having an impact on employers, not only on direct medical costs, but also on the more hidden costs associated with absence, presenteeism, overtime and replacement workers.

As employers seek to control these rising costs, many are increasing their investment in the health and work effectiveness of their employees. What’s more, employers are finding this strengthened commitment—evidenced by a philosophy and programs that make employees accountable for managing and improving their own health—can have positive effects on their organization and the bottom line.

According to the results of the Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health 2011/2012 [email protected] study, nearly two-thirds of responding companies that reported highly effective health and productivity programs performed better than their top competitors, versus 50 percent of companies with ineffective programs.

Today’s leading companies are making powerful connections between health and productivity strategies and business objectives. As a result, they are seeing health improvements among employees, lower costs, reduced work loss and higher productivity. According to the study, there are 10 key strategies for employers to consider when embarking on or enhancing current health and productivity practices to be successful.

  1. Make health and productivity core to the organization’s business goals and culture by building it into the company’s vision and value statements.
  2. Align health and productivity strategies and programs with the employee value proposition and total rewards strategy.
  3. Engage leaders and employees early and on an ongoing basis; solicit and act on feedback, and use new technologies and techniques to personalize health messages and experiences.
  4. Review and update the organization’s absence and disability policies and practices; integrate messages, processes and data with medical, health management and behavioral health programs.
  5. Leverage the power of measurement by developing appropriate metrics and a process plan for regular program monitoring, along with a broader governance framework, including business outcomes.
  6. Review structure and staffing and align resources to optimize results—by ensuring the wellness, organizational development, talent and benefits coordinate efforts and see themselves as part of the same overall organizational effort.
  7. Partner closely with vendors, encourage collaboration among them and use performance guarantees to hold them accountable for results.
  8. Rethink efforts to involve employees and change behaviors—including incentives, social media, manager training, work environment and workplace culture.
  9. Consider connections with financial health, as saving for future medical needs and retirement emerges as an important element of overall health and well-being.
  10. Evaluate workforce stress levels, identify the critical sources of stress and take action wherever possible to address the underlying causes.

While this survey was conducted primarily among large employers, there are takeaways for organizations of all sizes. You may not have the internal staff to lead the initiative, but there are many vendors that can help you implement your own wellness and productivity program. iBi