Is wellness the answer?

Employers are looking for solutions. One that’s gotten a lot of traction over the past decade is wellness — the idea that if a company does a good enough job encouraging employees to be healthy, it will cut the long-term medical costs. Never before have so many companies taken such intimate interest in the health habits of their workers. Smokers have to pay higher premiums, employees who exercise regularly are rewarded, companies offer free medical screenings, and they barrage workers with information about their health.

“I think it is, in general, something new,” said Dunn, the human resources manager for United Equipment Accessories. “It used to be you weren’t concerned unless they were injured.”

Her company’s wellness program is four years old. Employees can earn a certain number of wellness points each month for rewards like a free gym membership, or a bonus that shows up on their paycheck. But Dunn admits the impact of the program will remain, to some extent, a mystery.

“I think it’s very difficult to measure,” she said. “The impact is probably not going to be seen immediately, but we’re hoping for a long-term impact.”

by ADAM BELZ

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