Companies Strongly Invested in Employee Wellness

August 6, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – More than three-quarters (78%) of the world’s employers are strongly committed to creating a workplace culture of health, according to survey results from Buck Consultants.

“Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies” finds that employers worldwide are investing in the wellness of their employees: 43% say they created a brand identity for their employee wellness programs; 52% offer health insurance premium reductions; and 65% believe wellness programs are extremely or very important in attracting and retaining employees.

“When we began this survey in 2007, employers were focused on basic health promotion activities,” says Dave Ratcliffe, principal, Buck Consultants, based in New York. “Our latest survey shows an evolution in employer thinking to a much more holistic and measurable approach.”

Ratcliffe explains that employee wellness is now viewed as a state of well-being across the spectrum of health, wealth and career, adding, “Wellness is part of the employee value proposition. Social media, gamification, mobile technology, automated coaching, and personalized communication are all part of the mix.”

Survey findings also show that 52% of employers worldwide are measuring the outcomes from their wellness programs, which is up from 36% in 2012. However, in the United States, the survey finds that 59% of employers do not know if their wellness programs are having an impact on controlling health care costs, which is their top-stated objective.

Sheldon Kenton, senior vice president, Cigna Global Employer Sales, notes that the globalization of employers’ wellness programs among multinational companies has risen significantly over the last seven years, from 34% in 2008 to 56% in 2014. He adds, “This has occurred even though it is challenging for employers to create a global wellness strategy because of differing cultures, laws and practices around the world.”

Other findings of the survey include:

  • Human resource polices related to flexible work arrangements and paid time off ranked as the number one component of wellness programs globally. Employee assistance programs ranked number two, driven by their prevalence in the United States, Canada, Africa and Australia.
  • On the global stage, too much stress, too little exercise and poor diet remain the top wellness-related areas of focus for employers. In Asia, Africa and the Middle East, worker safety is the number one concern.
  • U.S. employers cite health care costs as their top reason for sponsoring wellness programs. Outside the United States, employers use wellness programs to improve employee morale and to reduce sick days and presenteeism (i.e., when employees are at work but not fully functioning). The survey finds that employers are making the connection between health and productivity, Buck says.
  • Employee wellness communication, with personalization of employee messages, is closely linked to health care cost trend reduction, according to the survey. All of the U.S. companies participating in the survey that report a lower health care cost trend of six or more percentage points send their employees targeted wellness emails. The use of wellness mailings to employees’ homes also is on the rise, recognizing the influence that household members have on each other’s health.

Buck Consultants conducted the survey in association with Cigna, Wolf Kirsten International Health Consulting and the Global Healthy Workplace Awards. The survey analyzed responses from more than 1,000 organizations in 37 countries. The full report of survey results can be purchased by interested parties for $495 by visiting http://www.bucksurveys.com.

Buck Global Wellness Survey infographic

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