Wellness Programs that Make An Impact
Can a workplace wellness intervention help improve employee vitality and purpose? A recent study suggests that it just might.
A new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion is the first to demonstrate that a short, intensive workplace wellness intervention can produce sustained improvements in wellbeing. Specifically, the study found that a 2.5-day intervention led to sustained improvements in employee vitality (energy levels) and purpose in life, two important components of wellbeing, over a period of six months. There have been studies on the value and importance of these components, but this is the first study to demonstrate they can be improved through a workplace wellness intervention. The study was led by nutrition scientists at Tufts University, with contributions from two additional authors from Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions.
Employee wellbeing affects workplace productivity and engagement,, and can substantially impact health and healthcare costs,. Annually, productivity losses related to absenteeism cost U.S. employers nearly $225 billion. Presenteeism, the problem of workers being on the job, but because of illness or other conditions not fully functioning, appears to be even costlier than absenteeism. Lost productivity from presenteeism adds as much as $250 billion in costs to employers every year5. As adults spend a substantial amount of time at work, workplace-based wellbeing initiatives have the unique potential to positively influence employees’ physical and psychological health.
“This is the first clinical study to show that even a short intervention can produce lasting benefits and changes in employee wellbeing,” said Jennifer Turgiss, DrPH, M.S., co-author and Vice President, Behavior Science & Advanced Analytics at Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. “These results will help us understand how to improve workplace wellness programs to maximize participation and cost-effectiveness, while ensuring employees reap the benefits from them.”
“This study is an important proof-of-concept that workplace intervention programs have the potential to enhance employee wellbeing,” said first author and corresponding author, Sai Krupa Das, Ph.D., nutrition scientist and principal investigator at Tufts. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate significant improvements in multiple quality of life metrics with a 2.5-day immersive worksite-based intervention with employees.”
This randomized controlled trial of 12 diverse worksites was designed to assess the potential of a workplace wellbeing program from Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute© to achieve long-term improvements in health and quality of life. The study found that six months after completing an intensive, 2.5-day intervention, employees experienced significantly improved vitality (energy levels; primary objective). Improvements were also seen in secondary objectives including purpose in life, general health and sleep.
The intervention was a group-based behavioral program where participants worked with trained professional coaches who taught them a variety of techniques to optimize daily energy levels, develop their own purpose in life, create short and long-term goals, and review feedback from important people in their lives (e.g., family and coworkers). All enrollment and study assessments were conducted by investigators at Tufts University. Importantly, the study adhered to The National Institute for Health Care and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines to reduce the risk of experimental weaknesses and biases. Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions provided funding for the study.
About Vitality and Purpose in Life
In this study, vitality, measured by the SF-36 Vitality Scale, is defined as energy. Purpose in life, measured by the Ryff Purpose in Life scale, is defined as having a sense of direction that provides meaning in life. The importance of vitality and purpose in life have only recently received attention in the context of worksite wellbeing programs. For example, a study published in The European Journal of Public Health showed that vitality was significantly associated with motivation, absenteeism, presenteeism and work performance. A growing body of evidence also demonstrates that purpose in life is tied to psychological health, biological health indicators, longevity, preventative self-care and health care utilization metrics such as length of hospital stays10,.
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