Big Companies Step Up Worker Health, Productivity Efforts

November 30, 2009 ( – Many large U.S. employers are ramping up initiatives to improve worker health and productivity, according to a new survey.

A Watson Wyatt news release said it and the National Business Group on Health, an association of mostly large employers, sponsored the research. The poll covered 282 U.S. companies.

Seventy-two percent of employers polled have already enhanced their onsite offerings with programs geared toward stress management, employee assistance plans (EAP), or health coaches, or expect to do so in the next year.

Other findings include:

  • Some 51% of companies are planning no change or a slight increase to their health and productivity program budgets, compared to 44% that are planning cutbacks.
  • Some 42% of employers note an increase in employee utilization of the company health plan, and 47% of employers are seeing an increase in their workers’ use of the EAP. Additionally, 30% of employers are seeing an increase in workers filing disability claims, while unplanned absence is rising among workers at 22% of U.S. companies.

“Companies are finding some relief from high benefit costs by investing in programs that improve the health of their workers,” said Shelly Wolff, national leader of health and productivity consulting at Watson Wyatt, in the news release. “Workers who haven’t lost their jobs are under great amounts of stress and are increasingly turning to their employer for advice, treatment or assistance that goes beyond basic coverage when they get sick.”

The Watson Wyatt/National Business Group on Health survey found that while employers say they know why their employees are under such a heavy strain, comparatively few employers have programs in place to address the situation.

For example, according to the news release:

  • Although 78% of employers cite excessive work hours as a leading cause of employee stress, 21% of employers indicate they are taking action to address it properly.
  • Similarly, lack of work/life balance was cited as a leading stressor by 68% of employers, yet only 38% are taking appropriate action.
  • Another leading cause of stress, fear of job loss, is cited by 67% of employers, but is being actively addressed by only 41% of companies.

Details on ordering the report are here.