Enhanced Wellness Plans Yield Top Results

A survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans shows employers who put sustained focus into their employee wellness programs generally see boosted participation rates and results over time.

Plan sponsors interested in boosting the effectiveness of their wellness programs can learn a thing or two from a new survey highlighting the effect of stress management programs on health care costs.

“A Closer Look: 2018 Workplace Wellness Trends,” from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, shows 45% of organizations that provide stress management programs found positive impacts on health care costs, while 43% experienced better employee health screening data and 53% produced improved results with employee engagement and satisfaction.

Other wellness program features resulting in heightened employee engagement include on-site meditation/mindfulness programs, a wellness-centered website, nutrition counseling and wellness competitions. Support from senior leadership also plays a key role in the success of wellness programs. According to the survey, of those employers citing positive effects of wellness programming on health care costs, 54% have senior leadership speak directly with employees on wellness information. 

“Whether a workplace wellness program is taking a more holistic approach or focusing on cost savings, this report distinctly revealed that it is not only leadership support but, more specifically, leadership’s communication of the program to staff that is critical for program success,” says Julie Stich, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation.

Most companies that implement a strategy of organized, communicative leadership see above-average participation rates in wellness programs, explains Stich. According to the International Foundation, participation increases with implementation of nutrition programs (63% vs. 41%); fitness programs (60% vs. 31%); wellness seminars (53% vs. 38%); health fairs (53% vs. 34%); health screening programs (52% vs. 30%); and flu shot programs (49% vs. 36%).

Additionally, of those that cite a positive result on health care costs, 88% offer health risk assessments, compared to 70% of companies not noticing direct cost impacts; 76% provide health coaching versus 58%; and 69% encourage vacation time and days off, while only 48% of companies who do not see increased results do.

Physical wellness—a component not typically emphasized by employers—is seeing a spike with employee interest as well. Fifty-four percent of companies with boosted results provide on-site walking paths and 41% offer free or subsidized wearable fitness trackers. Among companies who offer these programs for the sole purpose of providing worker well-being, 49% encourage activity and/or exercise breaks during working hours, and 43% host onsite exercise programs.

More information on the survey can be found here.