Employees Reluctant to Engage in Wellness Programs

Only one-third said the well-being initiatives offered by their employers encouraged them to live healthier lifestyles.

Driven by ongoing concerns over worker stress (75%), obesity (70%) and sedentary lifestyles (61%), employer commitment to health and productivity remains strong; however, U.S. employers are finding it difficult to change the lifestyle behaviors of their employees, according to a survey by Towers Watson.

Towers Watson’s Staying@Work Survey found a large majority (84%) of U.S. employers identify health and productivity improvement as essential or moderately important to their health strategies. Additionally, more than three-quarters (77%) of U.S. employers expect their organization’s commitment to increase or significantly increase over the next three years.

However, while Towers Watson’s Global Benefit Attitudes Survey found that health is a clear employee priority, employees have not connected to their employers’ well-being programs. Only one-third said the well-being initiatives offered by their employers encouraged them to live healthier lifestyles.

In addition, 71% of employees prefer to manage their own health, and nearly one-third (32%) said the initiatives offered by their employers don’t meet their needs. Nearly half (46%) don’t want their employers to have access to their personal health information, in part due to privacy concerns, and close to one-third (30%) don’t trust their employers to be involved in their health and well-being.

In the last year, only 50% of employees participated in a well-being activity or health management-related program. Individual program participation was even lower, ranging from 48% for health risk and biometric assessments, to 22% for worksite diet/exercise events, to 8% for healthy-sleep or tobacco-cessation programs. On average, employers offer their employees $880 through a range of annual incentives, but employees collect only $365. Two-fifths of all employees don’t earn any incentives at all.

According to the Staying@Work Survey, the vast majority of organizations (88%) that offer employees financial incentives for participation in these programs will reassess their incentives over the next three years.

NEXT: Not all employers have a strategy or measure ROI

Companies with the most effective health and productivity programs had more employees participate in their programs and fewer employees using tobacco, at risk for high glucose and with hypertension. These highly effective companies also reported fewer days of unplanned absence and lower annual medical costs per employee per year.

Towers Watson found little more than half of employers today do not have an articulated health and productivity strategy. However, in three years, nearly half of the organizations plan to include a health and productivity strategy as a key component of their organization’s employee value proposition to help attract and retain talent and motivate employees.

Many employers do not currently measure the impact of their health and productivity programs. While 77% of employers measure program participation to a moderate or greater extent, only 53% use a variety of financial and nonfinancial benchmarks, and only 46% measure the return on investment (ROI) of their programs.

Employers are taking a broader view of well-being by connecting financial well-being to health. Nearly half of employers (47%) offer financial well-being programs as part of their overall wellness offerings, with another 33% planning or considering offering a financial component by 2018. There is also growing interest in adding new tools and technologies to help employees manage their financial lives.

The 2015/2016 Towers Watson Staying@Work Survey was completed between May and July in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia by 1,669 employers, including 487 in the U.S.

Towers Watson’s Global Benefit Attitudes Survey was conducted in 19 economies between June and September, and was completed by 30,000 employees, including more than 5,000 in the U.S., representing all job levels and major industry sectors.