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Employee wellness programs do pay off, the research is wrong

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Employers believe in workplace wellness programs. More than eight in 10 large employers -- and half of small companies -- now sponsor at least one wellness initiative.

Companies invest more than $8 billion annually to help workers quit smoking, lose weight and exercise more. Some even offer stress and resilience training and programs to improve sleep and mental health.

But, is the investment paying off? Some of the research says not so much. But that same research is focusing on the wrong things.

The most recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reports that wellness programs don't improve employees' health outcomes or save employers money.

Let us consider the JAMA study. Researchers tracked nearly 33,000 employees at BJ's, the wholesale grocer, and found no significant improvement in health outcomes for employees who participated compared to those who did not. However, researchers only evaluated the wellness program based on isolated metrics,........

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