Workplace Health Incentives Pay Off for Employers

August 7, 2009 ( - A new study by a Vienna, Virginia, health care consultant found that 83% of employers who have measured the effectiveness of wellness incentives in their workplace health plans found a better than dollar-for-dollar return on their investment.

Employers these days are keeping a close eye on their efforts to glean health cost savings and boost employee productivity by keeping employees healthier. A Health2 Resources news release about its poll said the number of employers fielding wellness incentive efforts who are keeping track of their return on investment has skyrocketed from 14% in 2007 to 73% in 2009.

While the employer survey found that more larger-sized firms offer wellness incentives, that doesn’t necessarily mean smaller-sized firms skimp on the value of their incentives. The news release said, for example, that organizations with as few as 210 employees are offering incentives valued at $1,450.

All in all, almost two out of three U.S. companies offer programs to keep employees healthy, and 66% of those use health incentives.

“During tough economic times, employees who take control of their health and are more engaged and active in their own health are valuable assets,” said Katherine H. Capps, president of Health2 Resources, in the news release. “We are not talking about $5 here or there. We are talking about serious investment into productivity, made by employers with as few as 200 employees, for as much as $1,400 a year per employee. Employers are taking control of health care costs by creating

smart, effective new strategies to keep employees healthy, and to keep employees at work.”

The Health2Resources poll on wellness programs found:

  • The value of incentives is up, averaging $329 in 2009 and ranging from $1 per pound for weight loss to annual premium reductions valued at more than $1,500. The most commonly used incentive is premium reductions, followed by merchandise/tokens and gift cards.
  • More than half of the companies surveyed offer health and wellness or disease management programs to spouses and a third extend the programs to other family members.
  • Smoking cessation programs are the most popular health and wellness initiatives offered. More than half of employers surveyed (53 %) offer smoking cessation to employees, and weight management and physical activity programs are not far behind.
  • Among those employers that offer disease management programs, 92% offer diabetes programs, making them the most common disease management program offered in 2009.
  • Two out of three employers offer a health risk assessment to employees, and nearly three out of four of those offer incentives to take it. Incentives to take the questionnaire range up to $300 annually, with about 10% to 15% exceeding $300.

The Web-based survey covered 372 small, medium and large U.S. companies employing 1.8 million employees.

More information on ordering the survey report is here .