- Two-time winner of the C. Everett Koop Award for healthcare promotion (1996, 1998), Pitney Bowes provides several workplace wellness services for its employees, including fitness programs, stress management, back health, and free nutrition programs.
- Unlike many other programs, Pitney Bowes address both disease prevention and management, demonstrating its commitment to investing in long-term results.
- PB’s culture of health and use of technology (not only fitness trackers but also telemedicine) helps distinguish it from other workplace wellness programs.
Pitney Bowes (PB), a digital commerce solutions company, has won the prestigious C. Everett Koop Award twice, in 1996 and again in 1998, for its two-part program: Health Care University (HCU) and Power of 2. In the 1990s, PB realized that its projected healthcare costs would exceed company profits by 2000. In response, it established an employee wellness program based on three building blocks: Education of healthcare consumers, efficiency in purchasing practices, and employer design. Moreover, PB’s strategy includes three dimensions: Demand management (described as a “focus on application of health benefits”), disability management, and disease management/ prevention.
PB now has a special workplace wellness portal called Project: Living, which features a variety of annual programs and one-time initiatives, including events (e.g., Move More Week) and competitions. PB even has its own Medical and Wellness Clinic in five of its US locations and offers Amwell telehealth services, including diabetes education and weight management programs and hypertension monitoring. Its online portal for employees contains a tracker dashboard that can integrate data from personal Fitbit wearables and video resources (e.g., workout videos) for employees.
As part of a comprehensive rewards program, employees can earn points for both physical and emotional wellbeing, totaling up to $500 in financial incentives. Activities include biometric and preventive screening, participation in the specified healthy living programs or meQuilibrium, an online stress management program. PB allows employees to substitute alternative activities assigned by the employee’s physician to earn rewards, showcasing the personal nature of the program and its prioritization of employee health.
PB initially invested heavily in these programs and as of 2015, has a return on investment of 2.6 to 2.8 times. Part of this is likely due to decreased plan costs of its participating employees with diabetes, which in 2003, cost only $4,000 compared to the $6,500 industry benchmark.
Keys to Success
On-site and telehealth services
PB helps employees get access to healthcare services through its on-site medical clinics (that provide services to ~20% of employees) and Amwell telehealth (14% of US employees and families). It also provides on-site fitness centers and free phone and telehealth consultations with PB nutritionists. PB also incorporates programs into its worksites through weeklong events such as the PB Fit in Fitness Week, which encourages healthy competition among colleagues. PB also encourages its employees to incorporate stretching and mini-exercises into their day, and take “healthy working” back home – emphasizing health as a central part of employee culture. PB also highlights community involvement by recruiting “Wellness Champions,” or PB employees whose job is to make sure that all locations are involved in PB programs and to organize on-site activities for the community. These activities include basketball games, group stretches, plank holding contests, and other group activities.
Focus on both disease management and prevention
One critique of corporate workplace wellness programs is that they don’t pay enough attention to chronic disease management. Of course, prediabetes intervention and healthy living programs are important; however, employees with chronic diseases like diabetes also require (and deserve) support for their conditions. Moreover, this may benefit employers, as some studies suggest that for corporate wellness programs to decrease healthcare costs, employers must also address disease management.
Given that most corporate wellness programs only have lifestyle programs, it is impressive that PB’s programs cover not just disease prevention but also disease and disability management. In 1997, PB hosted a 10-month Diabetes Management Program focused on educating and monitoring participants – PB employees, dependents, and even retirees!
Willingness to invest in long-term results
PB’s programs in chronic disease management demonstrate its investment in long-term results. Early in the workplace wellness program implementation, PB pinpointed diabetes as a priority (others included asthma and cardiovascular disease). In 2001, PB reduced or eliminated copayments for diabetes, asthma, and hypertension medications, and started to educate its employees about these conditions. This initial investment paid off with a demonstrated return on investment. In 2003, it saw significantly lower costs for plan participants with diabetes – $4,000 versus the $6,500 industry benchmark, and in 2007, PB estimated an annual total cost offset of $39.8 million on a cost base of ~$150 million. Workplace experts say that companies must be willing to invest heavily (at least initially) in order to implement an effective workplace wellness program and eventually see returns – both in cost reduction and employee health outcomes.
Besides the Koop award, PB’s successes in workplace wellness have been well recognized, as PB is the 10-time recipient of the Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles Award from the National Business Group on Health, and three-time Healthy Workplace Employer recognized by the Business Council of Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Drawbacks and Limitations
Participation rates, however, vary per program. Although PB reports continuing increases in participation, given its ~14,000 employees (not to mention, retirees and family members) globally, it could reach many more people through its on-site clinics, telehealth, and planned events.
Another potential issue is scalability. One value of PB’s program is that it offers many free or reduced-cost resources, and that it has improved over time. Even though PB sets a high standard for other companies, it is harder to say how many companies can (or are willing to) invest the necessary time and money to create a similar program.
- The Health Project, 2017, http://thehealthproject.com/winner/pitney-bowes-health-care-university/.
- “Project: Living,” Pitneybowesprojectliving.com, n.d., https://www.pbprojectliving.com/en/global/.
- Pitney Bowes, n.d., http://www.pitneybowes.com/us/our-company/corporate-responsibility/health-and-wellness.html.
- “Project: Living.”
- Jack Mahoney, “Pitney Bowes,” NBHC Value-Based Purchasing Guide, 2011, http://nahpc.org/index.asp?bid=428#_edn12.
- “Health and Wellness.”
- “Project: Living.”
- “Pitney Bowes (1998),” The Health Project, 2017, http://thehealthproject.com/winner/pitney-bowes-power-of-2-pitney-bowes-and-you/.
- Mahoney, “Pitney Bowes.”