“Work is the second most common source of stress, just behind financial worries,” introduces The Business of Healthy Employees report from Virgin Pulse, the company’s 2016 survey of workplace health priorities published this week.
Virgin Pulse collaborated with Workforce magazine, polling 908 employers and 1,818 employees about employer-sponsored health care, workers’ health habits, and wellness benefit trends.
Workplace wellness programs are becoming more holistic, integrating a traditional physical wellness focus with mental, social, emotional and financial dimensions for 3 in 4 employers. Wearable technology is playing a growing role in the benefit package and companies’ cultures of health, as well as social media to inform and inspire plan members’ healthy lifestyles.
In 2016, the top wellness programs offered to employees address physical activity, mental health, smoking cessation, health club memberships, health risk assessments, stress management, weight management, financial management, nutrition, and on-site gyms — the only category that grew over 2015.
One-third of employees said their employers offered healthy food choice programs and on-site clinics and participate in these programs.
Why do workers participate in health and wellbeing programs? The key reasons are…
- To improve health (97%)
- To earn incentives (95%)
- To increase energy (94%), and
- To manage stress (82%).
Two-thirds of employees who participate in wellness programs reported improved activity levels (exercise) as a result of participation, 63% felt healthier and happier, and 63% also report improvement in overall wellbeing.
There are some differences in employees’ wellness wants versus employers’ program offerings, shown in the second chart. The biggest gaps of wellness demand vs. supply are for:
- Nutrition, with 43% of employers offering and 37% of employees desiring the benefit
- Physical activity, offered by 53% of companies and wanted by 35% of workers
- Weight management, offered by 45% of employers and desired by 32% of employees.
Wearable tech is “primed for growth,” Virgin Pulse asserts in the report. While 54% of companies aren’t yet using wearable tech nor plan to do so, 22% currently use wearable tech and 24% are interested in implementing wearable devices in wellness programs.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: As competition for workplace talent gets more acute, companies will compete on the basis of benefits in addition to wages. It’s clear that workers are keen on wellness programs, but may be on different pages from their employers on certain wellness programs received in the workplace versus those accessed outside of work.
As much as consumers desire health food choices in their daily life (frequently discussed in Health Populi, such as in this recent post on food-as-medicine), workers may be more comfortable dealing with weight issues, nutrition and physical exercise “elsewhere” in the health/care ecosystem. This suggests the importance of employers in collaborating with other health/care stakeholders, like grocery stores, retailers, gyms, YMCA organizations, and other places where employees live out their lives outside of the workplace.
The importance of financial wellness was mentioned at the start of the report, but no deeper dive was made into employees’ interest in receiving such support through workplace wellness programs in this study. However, other surveys have found workers’ keen interest in receiving financial wellness support, and there is a growing list of programs addressing this issue for emerging areas such as student loan support, wedding expenses, and Tesla leases covered here in the Washington Post.