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Productivity gains justify wellness programs: WorldatWork speaker


DALLAS — Encouraging employees to take ownership of their physical and mental health is more about saving money immediately through increased productivity than reducing health care costs over time, said Chris Boyce, CEO of wellness program provider Virgin Pulse, a division of Virgin Group Ltd.

Many employers have implemented disease management programs to try to control health care costs, but the big savings are elsewhere, Mr. Boyce said Tuesday during a session at WorldatWork’s 2014 Total Rewards Conference in Dallas.

Mr. Boyce, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, said programs that also stress employees’ psychological well-being have a greater effect on reducing disengagement, absenteeism and presenteeism. These cost the United States $450 billion to $550 billion each year, according to research by Gallup Inc.

Something as simple as taking a walk can reduce anxiety, depression and other causes of presenteeism, which occurs when employees are not functioning fully at work, Mr. Boyce said.

“We know (being active) is good for your brain. We know it’s good for your health … but data shows it’s probably more powerful for your emotions than anything else,” he said. Employees who do 20 minutes of physical activity a day, have more energy and two extra hours of productivity at work, he said.

“If people are sleep-deprived … for three or four days in a row, their cognitive impairment is the same as coming to work drunk,” Mr. Boyce said.

Getting employees to sleep better or exercise more means employers “get paid back that day in terms of productivity,” he said.

“If you take care of your people, they'll take care of your business,” Mr. Boyce said.