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MONTHLY BAROMETER - WELLNESS EDITION

By Thierry Malleret, economist and founder, Monthly Barometer

By Thierry Malleret, economist and founder, Monthly Barometer

A wellness issue to watch is workplace wellness. In the U.S., workplace wellness programs have become a strategic priority. A recent survey reports that 35 percent of U.S. employers have come to the conclusion that such programs are effective at controlling health costs, compared with 22 percent saying the same about disease management and 20 percent about consumer-driven health plan design.

In addition, a growing amount of anecdotal evidence shows that workplace wellness is gaining a lot of traction globally. Nestlé, observing that absence caused by ill health costs 2.5 percent of the company’s total payroll, and Unilever, claiming that it recoups €6 for every € invested in health programs, are two among the many global companies now arguing that it is their duty to help people stay healthy and promote healthier living.

The benefits are indeed manifold: (1) it improves productivity, (2) it decreases the cost of absenteeism and presenteeism, (3) it leads to higher staff retention, and (4) may even improve investor confidence and stock market performance (according to some studies).

Contrary to the past when wellness programs were very directive and focused on managers telling their employees what they needed to do, the trend among employers is now to take a more holistic approach to their employees’ wellbeing. Holistic means that wellness programs now combine physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing, mental wellbeing, financial wellbeing and even social wellbeing, with a strong emphasis on mindfulness.

A related issue to which global companies and public organizations are increasingly paying attention is presenteeism: employees coming to work while being unwell, and therefore, not performing or under-performing. For obvious reasons, this is something very difficult to measure, but insurance companies tend to conclude that it is much more common than absenteeism in every economic sector. According to a British study, in the UK media industry, 0.6 percent of time is lost to absenteeism versus 7.4 percent lost to presenteeism. In the UK public sector, the figures are respectively 1.4 percent and 12.3 percent. 

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AuthorThierry Malleret, Economist and Founder, Monthly Barometer