By Lee Becknell

Savvy companies know that there are few corporate programs as beneficial for employee and business as the employee wellness program. These programs offer incentives—anything from a deduction in health insurance costs to sweet company swag—to employees who hit certain benchmarks and achieve health-related goals, like quitting smoking, losing weight or eating healthy. This is good for employees in the obvious ways, but also helps businesses reduce costs associated with insurance benefits and sick days. Indeed, the wellness program brings a myriad of benefits, so it’s definitely worth considering.

But do they actually work? Why yes, it seems that they do! According to a study by Aflac, 61 percent of employees say they’ve made better lifestyle choices based on a company wellness program. While this fact may surprise you, it shouldn’t. People spend a huge chunk of their lives in their workplace, and there’s no denying that it has influences, both positive and negative, on employee health, lifestyle and attitude. Here are some more interesting facts about employee wellness programs to help you get yours off the ground.

Fact No. 1: They Work, Plain and Simple

If your goal is to get your company as a whole to live better, healthier lives, then you can bank on a wellness program doing just that. There’s one main reason why Google lends out community bikes and offers on-site chiropractors and why Asana encourages its employees to nap on the job, and that’s the fact that wellness-focused values in the workplace can drastically influence employees. Study after study has shown that providing employees rewards and incentives for doing things like exercising and quitting smoking yields positive results.

Fact No. 2: Employees Like Them

Not only that, but employees just so happen to enjoy engaging with their wellness programs. The reason, of course, is because of the rewards. If employees are able to receive something in exchange for hitting the gym or eating a healthy lunch, like a branded water bottle or an afternoon off, they’ll feel like they have something special to work towards and enjoy during their day at work. When employees must work together to achieve a certain goal—like hitting a certain weight loss benchmark as a group, for example—that also improves collaboration and employee morale. In addition, such programs can encourage healthy competition among employees, so they can double as team-building programs at the same time.

Fact No. 3: They Save Companies Money

We probably don’t have to explain all the reasons why healthier employees equals a leaner business, but here’s a quick rundown. The fact of the matter is that sick employees cost companies in two primary ways: they require higher insurance payouts and more costs to cover sick days for employees who regularly call in sick. In one study conducted by Rand, researchers found that programs that prevent or manage disease risks (such as obesity or heart health) could significantly reduce insurance-related costs for employees, generating a savings of as much as $136 per month per employee.

Fact No. 4: Wellness Comes in Many Varieties

While you may think of employee wellness programs as discounts on insurance or free gym memberships for active employees, there are many unique ways you can encourage positive health and well-being in your office environment. Doing things like offering healthy snacks, allowing pets in the office, offering standing desks and having company stretching breaks can do wonders to help employees feel healthier, especially when they’re sitting at a desk all day long. Get creative with your employee health initiatives and remember to get ideas and opinions from employees about what would motivate them the most.

Fact No. 5: They Improve Company Culture

According to a study from AJG, the second most important reason why companies invest in wellness programs is to invest in company culture (43 percent), just after reducing health costs (60 percent). Indeed, your company’s attitude towards physical wellness contributes to its culture. For one, it sends the message that your company cares about its employees and will prioritize their health over other facets. For another, it helps to create a better, smarter balance between work and life. Those ping-pong tables, nap pods and company soccer tournaments aren’t all fun and games—they’re also key to keeping employees happy and healthy.

Fact No. 6: They Can Help You Recruit

If you find that your company struggles with on-boarding, consider that many employees look at wellness programs and incentives as a perk, so they may help you recruit top talent. Adding extras like a free gym membership, unlimited healthy snacks and onsite wellness coaches to the list of benefits in your job postings can certainly help you boost interest from top-tier prospects. Again, companies that take their health programs seriously often have stronger and more engaging company cultures, which is often a primary requisite for the young, talented job-seekers you’d like to attract.

Fact No. 7: They Have a High Return on Investment

There is no denying that, for all of the reasons listed above, the right company wellness program can bring a big return on investment (ROI) for businesses. Remember that you don’t have to spend millions on corporate wellness—even small- and medium-sized businesses can get in on the health action without sacrificing a major chunk of the human resources budget. Offering affordable rewards and incentives is a good first step. For example, you might reward employees who walk a certain number of steps each day with a special gift card or some company swag.

The Takeaway: Are Employee Wellness Programs Worth It?

Bearing all of this in mind, it’s clear that getting your employees on a healthy regimen can bring measurable benefits for both your workers and your business’ bottom line. The key is to make smart, affordable investments into wellness programs that will bring big returns, boost employee morale and capture the attention of promising new talent!