The role that today’s workplace plays in health and well-being is often debated. People spend much of their time at work, and wellness at work matters. Employers generally find that healthy employees contribute to business success, but the exact quantitative relationship between improvements in employee health and corresponding improvements in employee productivity and engagement remains elusive.
At the same time, employees around the globe are increasingly subject to non-communicable diseases – primarily cancer, heart and chronic pulmonary diseases, and diabetes. Many such diseases have their root in obesity or tobacco use, and thus to a large extent are preventable. Worldwide, non-communicable diseases cause an estimated $2 trillion in losses each year in economic activity, as well as the premature deaths annually of 18 million people still in their productive years. That’s why the World Health Organizations tags such non-communicable diseases as “the world’s biggest killer.”
For the past two years, the Workplace Wellness Alliance has been tackling the problem. Triggered by a call to action during the 2010 World Economic Forum, this consortium began with 13 companies and now has more than 100 major global employers representing 4.5 million employees worldwide, all dedicated to ensuring that – regardless of country or industry – optimum employee wellness is a priority in the workplace.
As the consortium has grown in size, so has its influence. In fact, the corporate social responsibility newswire CSRwire recently named the rapid growth of the Workplace Wellness Alliance as a “Top 10 CSR Moment of 2011.”
Specifically, the Alliance is helping establish a global standard of wellness – through metrics and best practices contributed by its member companies – to improve workforce health and productivity. Already, it has collected homogeneous health metrics from more than 150,000 employees across 20 global companies. These will help establish a measurable global workplace health baseline and provide the structure, tools and processes essential to maximize efforts against chronic diseases. It also has established a database of real-life case studies that describe successful workplace wellness programs.