By Maria Valdez Haubrich
With the rising costs of employee health care always an issue for businesses, many companies both big and small are emphasizing employee wellness to help keep insurance costs down. A recent study by Principal Financial Group and Harris Interactive reveals that employees are giving wellness programs a big thumbs-up.
The Principal Financial Well-Being Index surveyed small and midsize U.S. companies and found that benefits related to wellness and weight loss were among the most coveted by workers. The percentage of employees who use weight-loss programs offered by their employers increased to 53 percent in 2010, up 25 percent from 2009.
Other benefits employees would love to receive are fitness facilities (27 percent), discounts on fitness center memberships (24 percent) and weight-loss programs in the workplace (17 percent).
Lee Dukes, president of Principal Wellness Company, a subsidiary of the Principal Financial Group, notes that “Americans in general are more aware of the impact of obesity on their health” and that employers as well as employees are increasingly seeking out this type of program.
Employees seem to be growing more aware that they need to be responsible for their own health to help keep costs down. Some 68 percent used an employer’s personalized action plan to manage high-risk health conditions (up 21 percent from last year), and 84 percent used blood-sugar screenings (an increase from 66 percent in 2009).
If you offer health insurance to employees, check with your plan administrator to see if the plan offers any type of wellness benefits. Some plans offer things like fitness center discounts, discounts on massages or acupuncture, or other assistance to maintain good health. If you don’t have health insurance for your staff or your insurer doesn’t offer wellness programs, contact local hospitals to see if they have any programs for business. You may be able to get hospital staff to hold educational sessions about weight loss, stress relief or other wellness concerns at your company. Another option: See if you can barter with local small businesses that provide wellness-related services like yoga classes or stress management to hold events at your company.
In addition to keeping your insurance costs down and lessening absenteeism, wellness benefits have some other, well, benefits. According to the survey, 43 percent of employees say wellness programs make them want to work harder; 48 percent say the benefits make them more loyal to their employer; and 38 percent say wellness benefits make them more productive on the job.
Image by Flickr user Coni Dutka (Creative Commons)Google+