© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Companies large and small offer wellness programs for workers

Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists
Syracuse orthopedic Specialists in Syracuse is one of several companies to offer wellness programs to employees

Workplace wellness programs continue to thrive in this country, with companies looking to improve workers’ health and reduce overall medical spending. While larger corporations often take on the task themselves, there are opportunities for smaller businesses to help employees take control of their health.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, in 2018 82% of companies with more than 200 workers offered some sort of wellness program, ranging from exercise and nutrition support, to smoking cessation opportunities. 

"We have everything from opportunities for financial health, physical activity, 5Ks, massage, holistic health, cooking classes, blood drives," said Amy Grover, wellness program coordinator for SOS, Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists.

About one-third to one-half of the company’s 600 employees take part in these programs. And while Grover admits there’s not hard data to quantify the effectiveness of these programs, there are unmeasurables.

"It has this kind of boost in morale part. So employees are really appreciative for the opportunity to participate in things, not only for themselves, but their families, and other chances to get together," Grover said.

It’s harder for smaller companies to offer the programs. 53% offer some kind of wellness program according to that Kaiser study. Many of them find help from the community.  Jen Kaljeskie, corporate wellness coordinator for the YMCA in Syracuse, said YMCAs across the country are the entryway for some businesses that can’t support these wellness programs on their own. She said it’s a growing part of the Y’s membership. In the last six months, her program has added two new businesses to a list ranging from a 12-employee doctor's office to a company that employs 200 people. And what these employers want for their workers runs the gamut.

"Some places are looking just to get employees more active." Said Kaljeskie. "Some places are focused more on weight loss. It kind of depends on what businesses want for their employees. It's a very wide spectrum. It’s not one size fits all."

According to the Y, implementing a wellness program can reduce absenteeism, decrease health care costs, improve productivity and mental clarity, and improve employee morale and retention. To entice more employees to get involved, Kaljeskie says the Y offers something called the CNY Corporate Games.  

"Each month there is a different event they can participate in." she said. "We did baseball, kickball, pickleball, volleyball, all kinds of different things. Coming up we have a 5k. The corporate games themselves are used as mostly a team building exercise, for businesses in the area that compete against other businesses in the area.  Super popular and lots of fun."

The Corporate Games program is open to larger firms as well, and Amy Grover at SOS said it’s one of the most popular wellness initiatives the company offers. She said finding what works though, often means leaving it up to the employees to decide whether they want to play kick ball, or get a massage.

"We’re really just focused on if we can have employees participating and engaged, we feel like long term it can be beneficial for them and the company as well," Grover said.