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Workplace Wellness Programs: Do They Actually Work?

Last April, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study detailing the short-term effects of a workplace wellness program.

The randomized clinical trial, conducted by Harvard University and University of Chicago, involved just under 33,000 employees at an American retail company to see if their employee wellness program had any positive impact on overall health and stress management.

While there was an 8.3 percent increase in physical exercise and a 13.6 percent increase in workers managing weight after 18-month study period, researchers observed no significant changes in clinical markers, including body mass index and blood pressure. Additionally, measures such as health care spending, absenteeism, tenure and job performance remained virtually the same at the conclusion of the study.

Although findings fail to display immediate improvement in clinical markers, medical measures and employment outcomes, employees demonstrated increased rates of positive self-reported health behaviors, with measures including sleep quality and food choices.

Findings may not have produced measurable differences, but the study was based on the short term. Improvements in outcomes may only be observable in the long term—five years, perhaps.

The effectiveness of an employee wellness program also depends on the program’s objectives and motivations. So often, a program will apply a “one size fits all” strategy instead of tailoring it to the workers’ needs and personal goals.

In order for a wellness program to yield a high success rate, personalization plays a crucial role in determining job satisfaction, as well as physical and mental health.

Sheena Bergado

Sheena first met Tricia on a back pain support forum. After becoming online friends they launched PainFreeWorking.com in 2019. Due to suffering from upper back and shoulder pain, Sheena vows to find the best ergonomic office equipment in the Philippines to help fellow desk workers.