What's the real motivation behind wellness programs?

Because the focus of this year’s National Employee Benefits Day is Wellness 2.0, it seems appropriate to ask: Is cost-cutting the top reason employers offer wellness programs — or is there a more magnanimous reason behind the healthy living push?   
That question was at the heart of a recent WorldatWork study.
The organized polled 443 HR pros and asked them why their companies offered a wellness program. Here were HR pros’ top responses:

  • Improve employee health (cited by 85% of HR pros)
  • Because of the perceived value to employees (79%)
  • Decrease medical premiums (77%)
  • Improve productivity (73%)
  • Increase engagement (72%), and
  • Reduce absenteeism (64%).

No premium on premiums?

Based on those responses, it looks like employers are putting employee health- and well-being ahead of their own healthcare costs with their wellness efforts.
Of course, it’s easy to say employee health and well-being is the top company priority. Following through with that claim is something else all together.
For its part, WorldatWork did try to see how far employers were willing to go to back up those lofty claims.
The study found that an impressive 96% of the employers supported well-being programs for employees, and 75% of firms plan on beefing up those programs over the next two years.
What’s more, even if employer-sponsored healthcare was eliminated at these firms, just 29% of firms said they’d drop their disease management program as well, and only 26% said they’d discontinue their wellness coaching.

Top-5 trends

Finally, the study also offered some insight into the types of wellness and scheduling trends your peers are offering.
According to the study, the five most common health-related well-being benefits employers offer are:

  1. Immunizations (offered by 73% of firms)
  2. Physical fitness (70%)
  3. Mental/behavioral coverage (69%)
  4. Diet and nutrition (62%), and
  5. Smoking cessation (60%).

But well-being benefits aren’t limited to health-specific offerings. As WorldatWork Senior Practice Leader Rose Stanley put it: “Successful organizations are discovering that an innovative approach to well-being goes beyond the employee’s physical health.”
So the study searched out the top work-life balance benefits being offered by employers. These included:

  1. Encourage use of vacation (Cited by 66% of companies)
  2. Flexible schedules (65%)
  3. Community involvement (56%)
  4. Child-care assistance (29%), and
  5. Elder-care assistance (23%).