Welcome to Wellness 2.0

By Rita Pyrillis, Workforce

Corporate wellness has evolved in fits and starts since the first executive gyms appeared after World War II. But despite continuing concerns regarding the effectiveness of employee wellness programs, the industry has exploded in recent years.

Focusing efforts on the sickest workers and paying or punishing people to get healthy have become common practices, but some employers are taking a different approach and ditching financial incentives, embracing the importance of emotional health and redefining the concept of return on investment.

The hard-dollar approach of measuring money spent on wellness efforts against health care dollars saved is giving way to a more nuanced view that values softer benefits like employee morale and company loyalty. And more employers are abandoning carrot-and-stick methods such as offering or withholding discounts on insurance premiums to get employees to participate. Instead, companies are creating environments designed to make wellness easy and fun.

Even the term “wellness” is falling out of favor as more companies adopt a holistic approach that includes emotional and financial well-being, according to LuAnn Heinen, vice president at the National Business Group on Health, an employer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

“We’re moving from wellness to well-being,” said Heinen,who heads up the group’s Institute on Innovation in Workforce Well-being. “In traditional wellness programs, we measure success by participation and ROI on medical costs, but in today’s approach it’s not about ROI. It’s about productivity, and business metrics, and retention, and customer satisfaction. It’s not about health and benefits in silos, but about broader well-being, and that includes social connectedness, financial security, emotional health and job satisfaction. The old way of getting everybody to do the same thing is being abandoned.”

Read more at Workforce.com.