Holistic Well-Being Programs Becoming Critical Business Drivers

Well-being programs are generally well received by employees and employers are enhancing these offerings to drive employee engagement and stay ahead of the competition.

Employee well-being programs are taking a more holistic approach and incorporating everything from physical health to mental wellness and financial stability, according to the latest Business of Healthy Employees survey by Virgin Pulse and Human Capital Media (HCM). The report indicates that these programs are no longer “nice-to have” offerings, but critical drivers of employee recruitment, retention and engagement.

For the first time in the survey’s history, improving employee engagement was cited as the top reason employers offer well-being programs, equal to managing health care costs. The survey also found that for the first time this year, organizations that made the business case for well-being solutions did so to become an employer of choice. The study notes that to become an employer of choice, companies will have to offer a robust suite of well-being offerings to address the diverse needs of their workforce.

Compared to the previous year, all of the top ten most popular programs offered by employers saw growth in adoption in 2017. Mental health took the lead for the first time with 72% of employers offering a well-being program addressing this issue. Moreover, the majority of employees (85%) say managing their stress levels is an important factor in their program participation.

Other widely-offered programs include those addressing physical health (68%), health risk assessments (68%), smoking cessation (64%) and financial management (58%).

Employee Reaction to Well-Being Programs

The survey found many of these programs are well received by employees and may help them meet their personal goals. The majority of employees who participate in well-being programs say they do so to improve their health (97%), and 93% participate to boost their energy levels.

Seventy-seven percent of employees agree that their well-being programs help them feel more energetic and productive both at work and beyond. Moreover, 90% of employees say these programs positively affect work culture, 77% say they make them feel like the company cares about them, and 62% say these offerings make them more loyal and engaged to the company.

The researchers write, “Employees will continue participating as long as they achieve results, which in turn benefits the organization in the form of increased engagement and higher retention rates.”

How Employers Approach Well-being Programs

The survey found some key differences in how various companies address well-being initiatives, as well as the results they generate. For example, the study highlighted that “global organizations differ in their offerings, are more inclusive, have a higher incidence in wearable usage and are very focused on communication tactics.” These organization also report higher impact on employee engagement (38% higher), and recruiting and retention (34% higher) than all other companies surveyed.

Researchers also noted that organizations with increased participation rates have some distinct attributes including satisfactory wellness-program measurement strategies and higher wearable usage. They are also more likely to increase their well-being program spending in the next three years.

Particularly, 24% of organizations surveyed reported they had a satisfactory measurement strategy that can tie well-being efforts to business outcomes. Moreover, the study notes that having a measurement strategy is closely correlated with participation rates.

Still, the researchers note measuring the return on investment (ROI) in these programs can be very difficult. The majority (53%) are relying on employee feedback to improve well-being programs.

Researchers conclude that the rise in programs addressing all aspects of employee health demonstrates organizational commitment to a holistic view.

The 2017 Business of Healthy Employers Survey can be accessed at Connect.VirginPulse.com.