The constant contact that hospitality industry employees have with their customers is not readily seen in any other industry. To that end, the benefits of having healthy, productive employees are ever more important. Best-practice employers are constantly looking for ways to improve the bottom line, especially in a down market. Investing in the health of your human capital is one sure way to yield a great return.
But in the midst of a financial crisis, is it worthwhile for companies to take a vested interest in employee health and fitness? In an increasingly tight economy, companies are cutting back their budgets on everything from labor to advertising. Is there value in maintaining (or even acquiring) a company-sponsored employee wellness program? Perhaps more than you’d think.
In this article we examine these benefits for employers and highlight some examples of wellness initiatives from leading hospitality companies.
Benefits to Employers
Studies have shown that employee health initiatives provide companies with major long-term benefits including decreased health care costs, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity and morale in the work environment.
Decreased Health Care Costs
A primary benefit to employers who implement employee wellness programs is lower health care costs. Simply put; if you can keep your employees healthy, they will use health care services less often and therefore keep costs down. Health insurance expenses grow every year for employers.
Reduced absenteeism is another significant benefit to employers. Causes of absenteeism include poor diet, obesity, smoking, sleep deprivation and chronic pain. A recent American Hospital Association report shows that three chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes and hypertension) result in an estimated 164 million days of absenteeism each year, costing employers $30 billion.1
Improved Morale and Employee Productivity
In addition to employer benefits, employee wellness programs bring obvious benefits to the individuals themselves. A healthy worker is both a happier and more productive worker. Employees who are fit and exercise regularly have more energy, are more alert, and are able to think more clearly throughout the workday. There are a myriad of additional benefits to employees including reduced weight, lower stress, increased stamina and self esteem.
The growing importance of wellness initiatives has become apparent in some companies in the hospitality industry.
InterContinental Hotels Group implemented an employee wellness program in 105 of their hotels in the Americas region. In this program, participants had their choice of several activities including Weight Watchers, walking programs, or a discount gym card. In total, 916 pounds were lost by employees who chose Weight Watchers and over 2980 miles were walked, which also raised $2,255 for charities.2
Rosen Hotels & Resorts was recently awarded by UnitedHealth Group for their innovations in employee wellness. With a focus on prevention, Rosen offers their employees in-house medical care. The Rosen Medical Center is a 4000 sq. foot clinic with full time medical staff which offers a host of services which are easily accessible to employees. The company has benefitted as healthcare costs have remained flat over the past five years (where similar companies have doubled), and they estimate a savings of $10 million per year on healthcare since initiating the program.3
Aramark offers a smoking cessation program through the American Cancer Society called The Quitline Program. This service provides employees with phone counseling, fully paid nicotine replacement therapy and prescription drug reimbursement to encourage employees to quit smoking. Thus far, Aramark employees have responded favorably to the program and the company expects improved productivity and lower health care costs.4
Amidst the financial crisis on Wall Street and its effect on the global economy, many have put their overall wellness on the back burner. Stress related to job security, loss of personal wealth, and overall gloom about the future has caused many to delay New Year’s resolutions of health and weight loss. Unlike years past, the focus is on getting out of troubled financial waters, not maintaining a healthy lifestyle which includes daily visits to the gym.
But given the proven benefits, company-sponsored health programs are conceivably more important now than ever. With obesity rates on the rise and progressively more stress than usual in the workplace, employee well-being is becoming more and more crucial to a company’s success.