In 1985, it was estimated that if corporate America did not take action within the ensuing eight years, health care costs would eliminate all profits from the average Fortune 500 company. Now, as corporations reevaluate their approach to achieve a healthy bottom line, the number of companies that promote employee health has risen dramatically. Dr. Richard Keelor, a past-president of the Association for Fitness in Business, says, "Top management is recognizing physical fitness as a prudent investment in the health, vigor, morale, and longevity of the men and women who are any company's most valuable asset."
Health Pays Dividends
Corporate sponsored health promotion programs give corporations a return on their investment. Many companies have decreased their health care costs and employee absenteeism, while increasing productivity as a result of their health and fitness programs.
DuPont estimates that they save $5 for every $1 they invest in their "Health Horizons" program. PepsiCo. estimates a $3 return for every $1 invested. The United Methodist Publishing House reports a return of $2.66 for every $1 invested.
What It Costs
What are companies investing? Mannington Mills in Salem, NJ, invested $1.8 million in its complete athletic complex. PepsiCo., in New York, has a $2-million fitness center. Tenneco in Houston, allocated $11 million for its two story, 25,000-square-foot facility. Yet, many other companies invest less than $10 per employee, per year, and experience a positive return.
Many experts in the field of corporate fitness believe that the real benefit to a company that promotes employee health is recruiting a workforce of high achievers. Dr. Edward Bernacki and William Baun, who administers the Tenneco program, found that a significantly greater proportion of exercisers were high achievers than were non-exercisers. Bernacki states, "It appears that current exercisers have many attributes that are beneficial to a corporation, and their presence in the workforce is desirable."
Surveys of graduate business students show that the presence of an onsite fitness facility will play a role in choosing an employer. Dr. Ronald Cook, Director of Health Education and Physical Fitness for Sentry Insurance, believes their fitness program has been a positive recruitment tool for Sentry. "We feel the program enhances the quality of life for an employee. We did not build the center to get more out of our employees; we think they work pretty hard as it is. But we do feel it is a very valuable tool in recruiting and retaining employees. People have told us that it's been a factor in choosing Sentry over someone else. We feel that we're attracting more and more people who have an interest in maintaining their health, and that's good for everybody."
As the competition for high-performing employees grows, we will find more and more companies, large and small, investing in employee health promotion programs.