The popularity of wellness programs at work has grown dramatically since the turn of the century. But, do these programs work, and what kind of return can a business owner expect on

the investment? A statewide study conducted l last year at the request of the Wellness Capital committee for the Capital Crossroads vision plan provides compelling reasons for business owners to consider implementing some type of employee wellness plan.

More than 90 percent of the 900 Iowa businesses participating in the study said their programs are working, citing reduced health care costs, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and increased employee retention as direct benefits to their programs.

“About 15 percent of Iowa employers currently offer some form of wellness program to their employees,” said David P. Lind, of Lind Benchmark, the firm that conducted the study along with Data Point Research. “We received information from all business sizes – those with just two employees and those with more than a thousand employees. Of the survey respondents, the vast majority (93-97%) of employers who do not currently offer wellness appear to believe that wellness programs do work, but there are other reasons that keep them from offering wellness at their workplace.”

The factors businesses identified as most critical to a program’s success were management support and a strong internal champion.

“Two of the biggest barriers cited by those businesses not currently offering a plan is the knowledge and resources necessary to begin,” said Wellness Capital Co-Chair Laura Jackson, executive vice president at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “Time and money were also identified as challenges. Our ability to provide information, examples for best practices across business size and industry, and show that such an investment can ultimately pay for itself in long-term savings, are key to growing participation and having a greater impact statewide on Iowans’ overall health and well-being.”

Conducted during the summer of of 2012, the survey had a response rate of nearly 20 percent. Sponsors of the study included the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Hy-Vee, Inc., Live Healthy Iowa, United Way of Central Iowa, and Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Results also identified the challenges businesses face and where they need help with implementing a plan.

“The most popular programs among employees were those that included some kind of competition – team challenges within their organization,” said fellow Wellness Capital Co-Chair Sheila Laing of Hy-Vee. “Incentives for success were also popular, even when they were modest incentives like a gift card or a few hours of additional paid time off.”

An executive summary of the study can be viewed by visiting

Media inquiries may be directed to Susan Ramsey of the Greater Des Moines Partnership at (515) 286-4954 or