Preventive health and wellness benefits increasingly are seen by employers as a key strategy to boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and curb health care benefits costs. A 2015 research report by the Society for Human Resource Management found 70 percent of companies now offer wellness programs, up from 58 percent seven years earlier.
This week’s RBJ Snap Poll asks readers about their views on workplace wellness programs.
Nearly 85 percent say employers should offer workplace wellness programs. That compares with around 80 percent in a similar poll done in early 2016. In addition, a slightly higher percentage of respondents’ firms offer such programs now. The majority of respondents favor incentives to motivate workers to participate in wellness programs but oppose penalties such as high premiums if they opt out—in nearly identical percentages from a year ago.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workplace wellness programs and policies are “designed to support healthy behaviors and improve health outcomes while at work.” These programs consist of activities such as health education and coaching, weight control programs, medical screenings, stress management and on-site fitness programs.
Views differ on the effectiveness of workplace wellness efforts. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found nearly three-quarters of companies think employee wellness programs are effective, but other researchers say the return on employers’ investment is not clear.
For more than a decade, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Rochester Region, and the Rochester Business Journal have presented the Wealth of Health Awards to recognize employers’ health initiatives. A section looking at those efforts begins on Page 17 of this edition of the Rochester Business Journal. The 2017 Wealth of Health Awards event takes place June 22, from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. More information on the event is available at rbj.net/events/wealth-of-health.
More than 300 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted June 13 and 14.
In your view, should employers offer workplace wellness programs?
YES 84% NO 16%
Currently, is there an employee wellness program at your place of work?
YES 53% NO 48%
Should employees be offered incentives to participate in a wellness program?
YES 70% NO 30%
Should companies require employees to pay higher premiums if they do not participate in a wellness program?
YES 33% NO 67%
Worksite wellness programs can be measured in ways that far outreach just ROI. This includes overall employee health and well-being, morale and productivity. The traditional wellness program may offer awareness of physical health, but well-being is a culture shift. Employee well-being addresses all aspects of health including social, financial, physical and community.
—Megan Scott, Ignitehealth Wellness Management Services
Employers need to be cognizant of their responsibilities when collecting, storing and sharing personally identifiable information and protected health information. Wellness programs are sometimes treated casually, expecting employees to share medical information that they are not legally required to provide to an employer and/or failing to keep information on certain health conditions apart from general personnel files as a separate, confidential medical record that is available only under limited conditions as specified by the ADA. Encouraging wellness is a positive bonus, but it comes with responsibilities—and liabilities.
I would prefer to see this connected to health insurance rather than something the employer need be involved with. This way the insurer would be able to monitor usage and adjust rates and bonuses accordingly. One of the biggest changes in health care needs to encourage individuals to become advocates for their health and improved lifestyle. While compassionate employers should be applauded for helping employees to make better lifestyle choices, the last thing anyone would want is to increase requirements on employers.
—Daniel Herpst, Rochester
Wellness is a personal choice. A workplace will benefit from healthy employees, but I truly believe that those who truly participate would do so with or without the incentive.
Workplace wellness programs are one of the most cost-effective benefits an employer can offer. It gives employees a sense of community and contributes to company loyalty, work longevity and reduced sick days.
I believe it would be beneficial for any employer to offer wellness programs. It will engage the employees as well as boost employee morale. Providing wellness programs will undoubtedly cut down on employee absences.
Big Brother, go home!
—Diane Harris, president, Hypotenuse Enterprises Inc.
Employers should offer if they want to and should not be forced to if they don’t want to do so. If it means enough to their employees, those with the programs will be sought after as employers. Likewise, if employers want to compel participation (they) should be able to do so at their own risk. They would have to accept that some employees will be alienated by compulsion and find other employment. The big mistake is musing over what employers should and should not do.
Wellness programs are beneficial to both workers and employers. Recognizing that, I’d say employers should offer optional programs but not have to pay an incentive for participating.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
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