Workplace Wellness Program Trend Healthier than Ever

October 20, 2008 ( - The trend of larger employers offering employee wellness programs appears to be healthier than ever, according to a new MetLife survey.

A MetLife news release about its latest Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study said more than half (57%) of larger employers (500 or more employees) currently offer a wellness program – up from 49% in 2006.

Even though the number of firms with fewer than 500 workers offering a wellness programs has been flat over the last 24 months at 16%, nine out of ten (94%) companies that offer a wellness component believe they help cut an employer’s medical costs.

Four out of five employers with wellness programs also give workers an extra incentive to take part:

  • 40% provide gyms/fitness center discounts.
  • 38% provide gifts and prizes.
  • 27% offer a reduction in employee contributions to medical plans.
  • 17% waive medical plan deductibles.
  • 17% offer additional time off.
  • 14% offer employees a credit towards their benefits purchases.
  • 2% offer cash/bonuses.

“Health insurance is not health assurance. While health insurance can offer employees important financial protection for acute medical events, most health insurance is not designed to help employees and their employers take a preventive approach to serious conditions that can often be avoided with healthy lifestyle decisions,” said Ronald Leopold, M.D. and vice president, MetLife Institutional Business, in the news release. “Helping employees see the value of wellness programs can lead to improved participation, which could affect not only their own current and future finances and productivity but that of their employers.”

According to the MetLife study, employers that offer wellness programs are more likely to:

  • See benefits as a very important tool for employee retention (70% of employers that offer wellness programs contrasted to 50% of employers that do not);
  • Feel that the benefits programs they offer are better than competitors' programs or the best in their industry (65% of employers that offer wellness programs vs. 42% that do not);
  • Say they offer programs geared to an aging work force (47% of employers that offer wellness programs vs. 6% that do not);
  • Believe that their benefits program is a very important reason why employees are attracted to their company (51% of employers that offer wellness programs vs. 22% of employers that do not).

The survey was conducted during the third quarter of 2007 and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by Gaff NOP. The employee survey polled 1,380 full-time employees, age 21 and over, at companies with at least two employees. The employer survey consisted of 1,652 interviews with benefits decisionmakers at companies with a minimum of two employees, representing a mix of industries and geographic regions.