Survey: More workplaces are expanding definition of wellness programs

Within the next five years, the bulk of employers intend to expand corporate well-being programs beyond a focus on physical health to include emotional health and financial wellness programs, according to a new survey. 

More than nine in 10 employers who responded to the annual well-being survey from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments said they are expanding investment in employee emotional health and financial wellness programs, such as debt-management and budgeting.

At the same time, 77% said they plan to increase stress management training, 72% said they intend to increase community involvement and volunteerism activities and 60% plan to add programs to encourage social connectedness for their employees.

“More employers are viewing holistic well-being as an integral part of their overall workforce strategy,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “The goal is to create a competitive advantage by deploying the healthiest, most productive, engaged and competitive workforce possible to boost business performance and empower great people and communities.”

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This is the ninth annual survey on corporate health and well-being from Fidelity and NBGH. It includes online responses taken in late 2017 from 162 jumbo, large and midsized organizations. Among the respondents, 14% were healthcare employers.

The results echo broader trends in corporate wellness programs. Employers have shifted the focus of wellness programs beyond their interest in impacting physical health and health costs to creating cultural changes in their workplaces. This has largely been due to a growing body of research which shows getting a clear return on investment in wellness is challenging.

For instance, research from the Illinois Workplace Wellness Study sorted (PDF) about 4,800 employees at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne earlier this year in multiple wellness programs found there were no significant increases in productivity or trips to the gym or decreases in healthcare costs or sick days taken by employees.

According to NBGH and Fidelity survey, financial incentives are also a growing part of corporate wellness programs. 

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Nearly 90% of employers who responded to the survey said they offer financial incentives up from 74% in the 2017 survey. As well, the average employee incentive amount increased to $784 for 2018, up nearly 6% from $742 in 2017. It's up 50% from the average of $521 in 2013. 

Nearly 30% of employers said they intend to continue increasing financial incentives over the next three to five years.