Many Employers Not Measuring Wellness Programs

January 6, 2011 ( – Employers spent 35% more or about $220 on each employee who participated in a wellness program in 2010 compared to 2009, according to a new report.

However, according to the Buck Consultants study, only 37% of U.S. employers measure the effectiveness of their wellness initiative. Among U.S. respondents, 40% have measured how wellness programs affect the cost of providing health care benefits to their employees. Of those, 45% report success in slowing health care cost increases, with a typical reduction of two to five percentage points per year. Eleven percent of U.S. respondents spend more than $500 per employee per year on wellness rewards, with the largest rewards reported at $3,000 per employee, Buck said.

“Organizations that measure the impact of their wellness programs are more successful at improving their employees’ health and overall wellness,” said Barry Hall, a Buck principal who directed the survey, in a news release. “However, many simply don’t know how to measure their results, or they don’t have the resources to do so.”

The wellness programs continued to gain momentum this year among U.S.-based organizations as a key strategy to reduce the cost of providing health care, improve worker productivity, and reduce absenteeism, Buck found. Globally, improving productivity is the most important objective for wellness programs, with improving workforce morale and engagement rising from the third to the second most important objective.

The U.S. results contrast with results in other regions on the health risks that drive wellness programs. Globally, reducing workplace stress is the top driver of wellness programs, particularly in Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. In the United States, the lack of physical activity is the top driver, and stress ranks much lower (sixth) as a health risk targeted by these programs.

Other findings of the wellness study include:

  • Globally, 66% of respondents have a formal wellness strategy, a significant increase from 49% in 2007.
  • Wellness programs are most prevalent in North America, where 74% of responding employers offer them.
  • The fastest-growing components of wellness programs are technology-driven tools. In three years, employers around the world expect a six-fold increase in their use of mobile technology – such as smartphones – to support employee wellness initiatives.

Among multinational employers 54% have a global strategy (a significant increase from 41%  last year and 34% in 2008). Wellness programs are most prevalent in North America, where they are offered by 74% of surveyed employers, but employer health promotion continues to grow in popularity throughout the world, with 41% to 49% of surveyed employers providing programs to their employees in all regions outside North America.

The survey analyzed responses from more than 1,200 organizations in 47 countries representing more than 13 million employees. The poll was conducted in association with Pfizer, CIGNA, Wolf Kirsten International Health Consulting, and WorldatWork. This year, 1,248 organizations based in 47 countries, representing more than 13 million employees, responded to the survey.