Humana study: Wellness programs cut stress, boost employee engagement

A new study from Humana and the Economist Intelligence Unit offers insight into the benefit of employee participation in wellness programs and how wellness programs can improve employee engagement with a company's goals and mission.

The employer survey, conducted in October 2015, included 209 human resources executives and managers at U.S.-based companies who have direct knowledge of their company's employee wellness programs. The employee survey, also conducted in October 2015, included 500 full-time workers based in the U.S., all of whom participate in an employer-provided wellness program.

The study results showed that employees who work in a culture that emphasizes wellness are less likely to experience health-related barriers or setbacks. Work-related stress is 12 percent less likely to take a toll on their health, and employees are 8 percent less likely to say that they face significant barriers to managing their health and wellness outside of work.

The research also provided evidence that wellness programs increase employee engagement with a company's mission and goals, and employees are also more likely to link their success to their wellness. "They report substantially better results in terms of fitness, weight management and, perhaps most notably, overall happiness and well-being," the report says.

But the report also reveals that the biggest challenge that companies face when implementing a wellness program is stress, and the biggest impediment to employee participation is a lack of time. More than half of the survey respondents said that workplace stress has taken a toll on their health and that work obligations have prevented them from pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

This is not the first insurer-backed study to find benefit in employee-wellness programs. A study conducted by Aetna last year found that a personalized program that targeted employees at high risk for metabolic syndrome saved the health insurance company more than $600,000. Yet wellness programs are still viewed with skepticism by some, including those worried about privacy concerns surrounding employees' information being shared with outside vendors.

To learn more:
- check out the study (.pdf)

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