1 Comment | May 21, 2010

Employee Health and Wellness Numbers that Matter

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We’re bombarded with figures, statistics, numbers, and facts. If you’ve followed our blogs, read our white papers, viewed our Vacation Wellness™ Employee Benefit Program fact sheet, or used our business savings calculator (thanks, by the way!), you’ve undoubtedly observed that we love numbers. They help us answer important business and life questions: when? how often? how much? how many? how far? how expensive? how profitable?

They’re a way for us to answer the real underlying question, which is always some form of “Is this particular issue important enough for me to pay attention?”

But there’s an art to the science. Not all numbers are created equal. Just because someone studied it doesn’t mean you should pay any attention to it. Many of the “gee whiz” statistics that Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine “Spirit” quotes are entertaining — did you know that Vanna White claps 720 times per Wheel of Fortune episode? Me neither. I wonder what penguin fell off the island in to make room for that little tidbit — but have no redeeming pragmatic value.

Other statistics, however, prove to be very important after just a little more digging.

Here’s an example: Americans drink 146 billion cups of coffee every year, which is just a smidge over 400 million cups per day (yep – same inflight magazine. Phoenix to Denver, in case you’re wondering). Interesting? Maybe. Important? Not so far, unless you’re in the coffee business.

But here’s something that might make you sit up and take notice:

  • In a Kaiser Permanente study, people who drank four or more cups of coffee per day were at 18% lower risk of hospitalization for heart arrhythmia.
  • Mount Sinai researchers discovered that people who drank three or four cups of coffee a day were 25% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

If your business has employees (most do), those are numbers you probably do care about, because of these numbers:

  • American businesses spend 16.5% of the gross domestic product on employee healthcare.
  • Employee healthcare costs have risen by 12% every year over the past five years.
  • The average employee benefits manager spends $13,000 per year per employee on healthcare costs.
  • Hewitt Associates predict that by 2019, healthcare costs could exceed $28,500 per employee every year.
  • Diabetes adds 35% per year to the average employee healthcare cost.
  • Heart disease events cost an average of $8,523 per episode, and consume an average of 7.5 workdays.

Suddenly, thanks to a few numbers helping us shed light on a relationship we didn’t know existed, the coffee maker in the employee lounge doesn’t look nearly as much like a creature comfort, and starts to look much more like a strategic employee health and wellness investment.

There’s a similarly surprising, and some would say unlikely, set of data proving that wellness travel and employee vacations are an inexpensive but indispensable method to help control rising employee healthcare costs, reduce employee turnover rates, and improve employee engagement and motivation.

You’ve seen all of these statistics running around our website and white papers, and probably already knew many of them anyway, but they paint such a great picture of an elegant solution to a common set of business problems that I can’t help but repeat them here:

  • Traditional employee health and wellness programs focus on body fat, smoking, blood pressure, and cholesterol – four ailments that add only 20% or less to your annual employee healthcare cost bill.
  • Without “incentives” (some would say “bribery”), those traditional employee wellness programs enjoy single-digit employee participation rates.
  • Stress and depression, on the other hand, add 46% and 70% to your annual healthcare cost burden. Present together at the same time, they add 147% – costing upwards of $30,000 per year, per employee.
  • Depressed employees’ short-term disability leave costs three to five times more than a control group.
  • Vacation Wellness™ targets stress and depression directly, lowering the risk of employee depression by up to 300%.
  • Regular destination vacationers are 32% (men) and 53% (women) less likely to have a heart attack.
  • Three out of four workers describe their jobs as “stressful” or “very stressful” – alarming when you consider that stress has been linked repeatedly to the top six causes of death.
  • A Duke University Medical School article describes vacations and wellness travel as a simple but necessary method to reduce stress, lower burnout risk, improve coping mechanisms, and restore important relationships.
  • 82% of surveyed executives agree that vacations improve employee engagement and productivity.
  • Vacation Wellness is a strategic employee retention program – essential when you consider that the average 100-person IT firm can save nearly $875,000 every year by reducing their employee turnover rates just 20%.

I could go on (and I often do!), but that’s probably enough for now…

In the meantime, those are numbers you can take to the bank!


1 Comment

Jaime 8:10 pm - 21st May:


Your website is very educational and enlightening. I have enjoyed reading and learning about the benefits your company can provide. I like the company I work for and would think that I would love the company if we had a benefit such as this! I hope to get some more information and see what can be done.