0 Comments | May 08, 2010

Wellness Travel: Crazy Enough to Work

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Employee healthcare costs are up 12% per year over the past five years, and are expected to double in the next six years. Nobody believes that the new healthcare bill will do anything but accelerate those expense increases. Few debate that the smart money is on reducing healthcare expenses on the demand side, leading to a predictable – and overdue – increase in employee health and wellness programs.

But not all employee wellness programs are created equal, and most target the low end of the employee healthcare cost spectrum. Obesity, hypertension, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle habits add 21% or less to your healthcare cost burden.

Stress adds 46%.

Depression adds 70%

When they’re present together, stress and depression add up to 147% more cost to your average healthy employee’s healthcare coverage and care expenditure.

And if you’re like the average employer, you’re already paying $13,000 per employee per year – for healthy employees! Depression and stress together could bring that total closer to $30,000 per year.

Those are compelling cost figures – you’re undoubtedly considering a wide array of employee benefits related to health/wellness, and likely have a stack of employee wellness program ideas ready to consider for the short list.

Add one more program: wellness vacations.

This program is different than most employee wellness benefit programs. It doesn’t involve pleading, begging, or bribing your employees to engage in activities they’d rather avoid. You’re not required to swim against the inexorable current of human nature to achieve your cost reduction and productivity enhancement goals.

The wellness travel concept leverages the strong correlation between destination vacations and positive health outcomes:

  • Male vacationers are 32% less likely to suffer a heart attack.
  • Female employees who vacation regularly are 53% less likely to suffer a heart attack.
  • Regular vacationers are up to 3 times less likely to develop depression than their non-vacationing peers.
  • Vacations reduce tension, lower adverse stress hormones, provide distance for effective coping, and reconnect employees with their families.
  • Employees who take regular destination vacations report greater job satisfaction, and are less likely to leave your company.

Vacation Wellness travel comes in all shapes and sizes:

  • Employees can choose a gourmet wellness vacation experience, sampling famous cuisine from exotic regions.
  • Ecotourism provides opportunities for staff to make a difference while getting away from the daily grind.
  • Employees may also choose a budget wellness vacation, with a slightly less exotic destination or slightly shorter stay, to reap most of the positive health and productivity benefits of vacationing. Fortunately, the Vacation Wellness employee benefit package brings even the most exotic trips within most employees’ financial reach.
  • Take a wellness vacation that focuses on physical and mental health. Just getting away is terrific, but your staff can go the extra wellness mile and elect to enjoy massages, exercise, practice yoga or meditation, and re-center physically and emotionally.

Employee health and wellness programs don’t have to be painful. In fact, the broccoli, blood draws, and bribery model is on its way out – it just doesn’t work as well as it should. Consider a more elegant and cost-effective approach: wellness travel.