A Mayo Clinic report finds that incorporating wellness programs for employees can reduce stress. In New Jersey, more companies are offering these programs as part of their benefits packages, according to Michele Siekerka, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

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"We've seen a sharp increase in wellness offerings over the last year," she said.

The NJBIA conducted a health study of its own this year, finding that in companies with more than 250 employees, 32 percent offer onsite fitness or walking programs — up from 18 percent two years ago.

Smaller companies with up to 24 employees are now providing wellness programs in a higher number than they were two years ago, as well.

Siekerka says more kinds of wellness programs are being offered, such as health education, onsite health screenings, nutrition, weight loss and smoking cessation.

"All across the board, they're providing these in higher amounts now," she said.

The reason companies are adding wellness programs is two-fold, according to Siekerka.

"These are the types of programs that make them competitive in order to attract a good work force. But there's absolutely the economic side of a healthier employee," she said. "A healthier employee means a more productive employee."

Health insurance benefit plans can cost less depending on how healthy the pool of employees are.

"So, if you can have a healthier workforce, chances are your premiums as an employer will be lower because your risk is lower in the plan," Siekerka said.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.

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