When speaking with employers, we often get asked the question: “You’re telling us to cut so many of the wellness programs we currently offer. What do you suggest we do instead?” It would be easy to propose that they just save the money, but that is giving up on the original strategy that drove them to employee wellness in the first place (healthier and happier employees, employee engagement, recruitment/retention, etc.). Rather, we suggest that they reinvest that money into programs (wellness or other) that actually makes progress toward their original goals.
One great example for companies with heavily bloated wellness budgets that are spent on wasteful wellness programs like biometric screenings, HRAs, weight loss programs, and more is to facilitate healthier eating at the workplace. We know eating more fruits and vegetables is good for your heart, and new studies show that lower prices of produce (greater access) are more effective at saving lives than traditional campaigns designed to encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables. Having free or subsidized fruits and vegetables in the office is the best way to lower cost and increase access to healthier foods. Also, free food in the office is considered a top perk by millennials, which is key for recruiting and retaining the largest part of the workforce. Specifically, millennials and other groups “value healthy options with 83% agreeing ‘having healthy and fresh snack options (e.g., fruit, vegetables, yogurt, low-calorie snacks) provided in the workplace is a huge perk.’” Would 83% of your employees miss biometric screenings? Probably not, since far less than that participate in the program even when you pay them to do it.
When it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, differentiation is important. If every company offered traditional wellness programs (numbers vary but more and more are), it would be hard for companies to differentiate themselves against their competition down the street. While more than half (55%) of companies provide free beverages, such as coffee, tea or hot cocoa, in the workplace, very few (16%) provide free food in the form of snacks, treats, and groceries. There is much greater opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves with fruits and vegetables in the workplace. Combined with actually having the ability to impact health, replacing wasteful wellness spending with healthy snacks is a no brainer.