What is Effect of Workplace Wellness Program on Employee Health, Job Performance, Economics?

JAMA

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: 11 A.M. (ET), TUESDAY, APRIL 16, 2019

Media advisory: To contact corresponding author Zirui Song, M.D., Ph.D., email Terri Ogan Janos at tjanos@partners.org. The full study and editorial are linked to this news release.

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Bottom Line: Employees of a large multistate warehouse retail company working in locations with a workplace wellness program reported some better health behaviors after 18 months than coworkers in locations without wellness programming. However, there were no statistically significant differences in other measures. In this randomized clinical trial, which included about 33,000 employees, 20 work sites (about 4,000 employees) had wellness programming on nutrition, physical activity, stress reduction and other related topics, while 140 other work sites (nearly 29,000 employees) had no wellness programming and were used for comparison. Researchers compared employee-reported health and behaviors collected from surveys and clinical measures of health among 20 work sites with wellness programming and 20 others without it, while health care spending and use and employment outcomes were compared among 20 sites with wellness programming and 140 without. Work sites with wellness programming had higher rates of employees reporting more regular exercise and actively managing their weight, but after 18 months there were no significant differences in other health outcomes; clinical measures such as cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index; health care spending and use; and employment outcomes such as absenteeism, job tenure and performance. These findings may not be generalizable to other workplaces or employee populations. Still, while workplace wellness programs are popular, the authors suggest these findings might temper employer expectations about their ability to lower health care costs and improve employee health and productivity in the short term.

Authors: Zirui Song, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Katherine Baicker, Ph.D., University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, Chicago.

 

(doi:10.1001/jama.2019.3307)

Editor’s Note: The article includes conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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