Wellness Program Can Make Company More Productive

June 3, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Employers are making use of wellness programs to improve employee engagement, which can make a company more productive, says a new survey.

The results of The Business of Healthy Employees 2014: A Survey of Workplace Health Priorities, released by Virgin Pulse, show that such wellness programs are improving company culture and health, and increasing energy and productivity in the workplace. More specifically, 87% of employees say wellness programs positively impact company culture and 96% are participating in them to improve their own health. Not only do these programs benefit the work force, finds the survey, but 88% of respondents indicate the programs provide a benefit to companies in the recruitment process.

Reasons that employees give for participating in wellness programs include:

  • Earning incentives (90.4%);
  • Avoid incurring insurance-related penalties (50.7%);
  • Improving their health (96.3%);
  • Being included in the company culture (48.9%);
  • Joining in on the competitive elements of the programs (51.2%);
  • Avoiding negative perceptions if they don’t participate (15.1%);
  • Improving their social status (14.4%);
  • Increasing their energy (92.2%); and
  • Helping to manage their stress levels (85.3%).

The survey finds that while employees are taking advantage of current wellness program offerings, they still want to see more. They are most interested in access to physical activity programs (72.4%), healthy food choices (65.5%) and onsite gym facilities or fitness classes (62.3%). In each of these areas, the survey found significant gaps in what employers are offering and what employees want. At the same time, employers are keeping pace with employee interest in programs like stress management (45%), weight management (50.4%) and brain training (45%).

When it comes to measuring the return on wellness investments, companies track a number of different areas such as:

  • Enhancing employee engagement (13.5%);
  • Reducing health care costs (23%);
  • Improving work force productivity (10.7%);
  • Reducing absenteeism (10.4%);
  • Enhancing employee recruitment and retention (10.4%);
  • Becoming an employer of choice (13.8%); and
  • Creating a culture of health (19.4%).

The authors of the survey note that the greatest benefit of wellness programs is demonstrated through the impact on engagement, an area that many organizations are not tracking at all.

“The links between a high level of engagement and business benefits are clear,” says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, based in Framingham, Massachusetts. “Recent research shows a highly engaged work force drives profitability, productivity and customer ratings, while reducing shrinkage, turnover and absenteeism.” Boyce notes that with 70% of employees reporting they are disengaged at work, a figure that translates to $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity annually, organizations should consider improving tracking in these areas.

Employers think that wellness programs are a good investment, according to the survey results. Of the employers surveyed, 72.2% plan to expand wellness programs in the future. When looking toward 2015, organizations indicate that plans are in place to increase the number of physical activity programs (32.8%) and further develop nutrition programs (32.8%). One-third of employers also indicate planned increases in financial wellness programs (31.7%) and stress management programs (30.6%). As companies work to improve and promote a healthy culture, demand for additional programs and options is likely only to increase. According to respondents in the survey, six out of 10 organizations (60.9%) plan to increase spending on health and wellness programs in the future.

The authors of the survey conclude that the best wellness programs, ones that will produce lasting behavioral change, are those that communicate that company is involved in a “culture of wellness designed to support employees.”

In collaboration with Workforce Magazine, Virgin Pulse surveyed 361 organizations and 3,822 employees to gain insights into the challenges and benefits of workplace wellness programs.

More information about the survey results can be found here.

Virgin Pulse is a provider of consumer-focused strategies and tools that promote engagement by employees of clients.