Photo: AP

BOSTON– It’s time for wellness to make its corporate debut. So says the National Business Group on Health.

“It’s time to take wellness from an HR initiative to a true business imperative,” Erik Sossa, co-chair of the National Business Group on Health’s Institute on Health, Productivity and Human Capital, and vice president of global benefits and wellness at PepsiCo, said during a short address at the NBGH conference on Health, Productivity and Human Capital in Boston this week.

The National Business Group on Health addressed goals and laid out initiatives for the year, saying that wellness is slowly moving into the limelight as an important workplace ideal, though engagement and widespread backing continue to lag.

Collecting data evidencing the success of health and wellness initiatives in increasing productivity, reducing absenteeism and reducing risk factors–all while saving cash for the company–will help achieve the paradigm shift.

“If we can truly link a healthy workforce can link to a healthy business, we will be able to move forward,” Sossa said.

Sossa cited PepsiCo’s own new focus on promoting wellness to executives, all while collecting data, to support the idea.

“To be able to put a dollar on [wellness programs] and talk about it to folks outside of HR has been very impactful for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, fellow Institute of Health, Productivity and Human Capital co-chair Pam Hymel, chief medical offer at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said that Disney’s continued wellness efforts are leading to more engaged employees who are healthier and happier at work.

She said one thing America’s largest employer is doing differently is “aligning workplace culture to support wellbeing.” That means taking advantage of its unique offerings to get employees engaged in healthy activities.

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“We are using our venue to get our employees to do something new for the first time,” she said, explaining that Disney employees are participating in Pilates in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland and taking group walks around Disney World’s Epcot Center before the parks open for guests.

“Each of you has a different culture,” Hymel told a room of employers. “Use the workplace culture you have to align your health goals.”

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Among NBGH’s key initiatives this year: telemedicine; mental health; health analytics, and considering how new workplace arrangements and greater flexibility affect employee health.

“It’s time to change the paradigm from benefits being something employers have to deal with to appreciating benefits as a resource,” Sossa said. “If you have an issue, a question or a problem, employees should know benefits are here to help.”