Businesses Deploying Workplace Wellness Programs, With IT Help

The majority of offerings still provide financial incentives for employees and their families to participate in wellness activities, the survey found.

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Workplace wellness programs and well-being initiatives are important components to improving employee health and containing rising health care costs, according to a survey conducted by nonprofit HR association WorldatWork and underwritten by HealthMine.

The survey of 443 WorldatWork members found nearly all (96 percent) of the organizations support employee well-being programs and nearly three-quarters (74 percent) report they plan to increase their well-being offerings or activities in the next two years.

In addition, 82 percent of responding organizations said employee health is a top motivator for offering well-being activities, while 78 percent of organizations noted curbing employee medical costs was their goal for offering the programs.

"The majority of offerings still provide financial incentives for employees and their families to participate in wellness activities, such as completing health-risk assessment questionnaires; enroll in health coaching programs; attend on-site or enroll in educational events that focus on nutrition, exercise, tobacco cessation and stress management; and participate in company walking and weight loss challenges," Leonard Sanicola, WorldatWork senior practice leader, told eWEEK.

However, Sanicola noted that some companies are not focusing on the achievement of actual results, whether that be the attainment of certain biometrics or the elimination of smoking from one's lifestyle.

The survey indicated that when comparing traditional wellness and integrated well-being approaches, those using an integrated approach showed a correlation to lower rates of employee turnover. Higher turnover rates are more common at organizations utilizing a traditional wellness approach (52 percent) than organizations using an integrated approach to overall well-being (39 percent), the survey found.

Just under half (49 percent) of organizations stated that they have an employee well-being strategy in place, and 54 percent of those organizations have had their strategy in place for three or more years.

According to the report, when asked if their organizations no longer offered employee-sponsored health care, the majority of employers said they continue to offer well-being programs.

If employer-sponsored health care was eliminated, 95 percent of responding organizations say they would keep workplace safety programs, 92 percent would continue to encourage time away from work and flexible schedules, and 90 percent said they would preserve their employee assistance programs.

The programs with higher drop rates included resiliency training (29 percent), disease management (29 percent), mental/behavioral health coverage (27 percent) and wellness coaching (26 percent).

Sanicola explained that although many consumers are beginning to own wearable fitness and health devices, it is still too early to tell whether organizations will purchase these items on behalf of their employees as part of their wellness initiatives.

"Wearables certainly do offer a myriad of benefits to both employers and employees in stepping up the focus on wellness, and offering aggregate data and continuous feedback," Sanicola said. "Such tracking devices offer the opportunity to engage workers in contests, and competitions, create more of a culture of health in the workplace, with a variety of support for individuals."

Used in conjunction with other company initiatives, the wearable technology can create social bonds and prolong wellness efforts that often disappear after the first few weeks of hype, he noted.