young employees workplace wellness

Workplace Wellness Programs Bring Benefits to Younger Employees

Today’s question: Can workplace wellness programs work as well for younger employees as they do for older employees?

We previously noted a Workplace Insight report that provides additional reasons why a well-run workplace wellness program may want to provide even more focus — and make great efforts to engage — younger workers.

The piece is titled “Staff aged 35 and under have lower levels of health and wellbeing than older workers.” And the lead sentence is direct: “Employees aged 35 and under lose the highest average amount of productive time due to absenteeism and presenteeism, are the least physically active in the workforce, have a high proportion of smokers and eat the least fruit and vegetables each day.”

The data come from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW), which notes that “Health-related lost productivity is costing the UK economy an estimated £73 billion, which would reduce significantly with adequate investment in health and wellbeing.”

According to Workplace Insight, “data from BHW shows that high stress levels can have major impacts on employee productivity at work, which in turn has cost implications for the employer. Almost 35 percent of 26-30 year old employees are physically inactive, completing less than 150 minutes of exercise a week, and on top of this nearly 14 percent of this age group smoke. Comparatively, the same data shows that older employees have healthier habits, with 22.5 percent of 56-60 year olds being physically inactive and only a small proportion (6.1 percent) smoking.”

Further, there’s the price of of presenteeism, particularly among younger workers: “This same age group also loses up to 30 days at work due to absence and underperformance due to ill-health, also known as ‘presenteeism’. This translates to workers losing more than an entire working month of productive time annually, whilst in comparison, employees aged between 56 and 60 reported up to 13 percent less financial concerns, losing on average just 19.6 days annually.”

To highlight the gap in understanding around young vs. older employees, Interactive Health recently released a report titled “Worksite Wellness Programs Benefit Young Adult Workers, Not Just Older Employees.”

The report notes that “A common misconception is that companies employing a large proportion of young adults don’t need to establish comprehensive wellness programs because their workforces are already healthy. But adults under 35—and the businesses that employ them—greatly benefit from comprehensive worksite programs designed to maintain and improve employees’ health. That’s important because adults younger than 35 account for more than a quarter of the nation’s workforce. And despite their relatively young age, they face significant health risks. Getting and keeping these younger workers healthy is key to their long-term well-being. Businesses that recruit and hire them benefit as well, in terms of worker productivity and lower medical costs.”

The report highlights “three commonly-held misperceptions about the value of comprehensive employee wellness programs for young adult workers.” Tomorrow we’ll review them.