Promoting Wellness Is a Business Strategy

February 6, 2013 ( Employers surveyed cite their commitment to promoting health and wellness as a business strategy and show continued desire to expand health promotion initiatives.

“Working Well: A Global Survey of Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies,” by Buck Consultants, reports that employers, regardless of location, identified improving worker productivity and reducing presenteeism as one of their top wellness program objectives. As health promotion takes its place as a top consideration among drivers of profitability and performance, an increasing number of organizations recognize their role in managing employee health—87% in 2012 versus 75% in 2010.

Overall, still only 36% of respondents currently measure specific outcomes of their health promotion programs, citing lack of resources (68%) and not knowing how to measure (34%) as the top reasons for not measuring. The likelihood of measurement increases with employer size, although even among the largest employers (20,000 or more employees), only 47% report having measured specific outcomes. 

Thirty percent of employers who measured health promotion program outcomes indicated that they increased their emphasis on wellness programs during the tough economic outlook, compared to 21% of employers who do not measure outcomes.  

“With productivity having a direct tie to bottom-line revenue, organizations now consider health promotion as a core business value that positively impacts their ability to compete,” said Dave Ratcliffe, principal, Buck Consultants.

Further emphasizing the impact on the bottom line, 23% of U.S. employers indicated their wellness programs helped reduce the cost of providing health care benefits to their employees. Of those, 62% reported health care cost trend rate reductions of 2 percentage points or more, and 13% reported trend rate reductions of 6 percentage points or more.

Other key findings of Buck's global wellness study include:

  • Increase in globalizationAmong participating multinational organizations, 49% have a global health promotion strategy, up from 34% in 2008;
  • Program focus: Move more, relax and eat betterThough different by specific geographic region, the majority of employers cite physical activity, stress and workplace safety as the top three issues driving wellness program design; 
  • Incentives' impact on program participation depends on type of activityThe survey shows that incentives have a direct correlation to program participation levels, but initiatives that require long-term lifestyle changes (such as physical exercise and nutrition) are not as greatly influenced by incentives as are more immediate programs (such as health assessment and biometric screenings); and 
  • Wellness initiatives continue to add value over timeWhile significant results from a wellness program can take years to realize, the survey shows how the impact of wellness programs differs by short-term and long-term payoff.
Buck's fifth annual global wellness survey analyzed responses from more than 1,300 organizations in 45 countries representing more than 17 million employees. Additional issues covered by the survey report include program design, incentives, organizational ownership of wellness programs and communication strategies.

An archived webinar on the survey results and implications is available at