New Study Shows Workplace Wellness Programs Mostly Ineffective

A lot of companies have instituted wellness programs for their employees for the purpose of keeping them healthy and not calling in sick or putting in more hours. But one recent study is showing that the workplace wellness programs may not be as effective as originally hoped for.

While these programs are great in getting more people to exercise on a regular basis to actively mange their weight, the wellness programs fail to affect other health and behavioral results.

For instance workplace wellness programs do not lower high blood pressure or body mass index (BMI) nor cholesterol. This study was published in the health Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Zirui Song, who is a researcher at Harvard Medical School and the study author, says that the findings of the study shows although health behaviors may be able to respond to a workplace wellness program, the overall return on the investment poured into these programs are not realizing a a large return.

In fact the 18 month long study found that no significant, long-term impact was being made through the wellness programs in the workplace. The areas of greatest impact though were in the increase in regular exercise and better weight managementfor employees that had access to a wellness program.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago coordinated the study.  Katherine Baicker, who is a researcher at the University of Chicago and another study author, said in a news release that they separated out confounding factors in order to assess the potential benefits of a workplace wellness program. 

One of the factors was that some companies who made the choice to provide a workplace wellness program may already have employees who were more health-conscious than those companies that did not have program. Also she said that employees who do decide to enroll and participate in the wellness program may have different or specific health profiles than employees who choose not to participate.

One of the results of this study is that it showed researchers that they need to be cautious as to how effective workplace wellness programs can be affecting and encouraging the behaviors of employees that lead to better health results.

Researchers hope that in the future they will grow in their understanding as to how to best encourage and stimulate healthy behavior, such as exercise and eating right and that the workplace wellness programs would have an important role to play in not only improving employee health but also to lower the cost of health care, Song said.