Workplace wellness programs are touted as a powerful tool that can make employees healthier and more productive while reducing the health care burden. But, the results of a new Harvard study suggests such interventions yield unimpressive results in the short term and findings, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), raises questions about the effectiveness of an $8 billion workplace wellness industry. While they may change certain behaviours they won’t improve absenteeism, tenure, or job performance.
What worked – encouraging employees to engage in regular exercise and actively managing their weight.
What didn’t work – any other outcomes, including 27 self-reported health and behavioural measures such as employees’ overall health, sleep quality, and food choices; 10 clinical markers of health; 38 measures tracking spending and utilisation for doctor’s visits, medical tests, procedures, and prescription drugs; and three employment outcomes—absenteeism, job tenure, and job performance.
This study complements the results of another recent well-designed randomised controlled trial where individuals (rather than entire worksites) were randomised into a wellness program or a control group.