Study offers insight into corporate wellness programs

As part of National Employee Wellness Month, Virgin HealthMiles surveyed 145 large employers and nearly 1,400 employees to gauge the effectiveness of different healthcare strategies.

The study found that while healthcare costs continue to rise, an increasing number of employers are implementing practices to combat this. Nearly 90 percent of respondents indicated that they use corporate health and wellness programs to help minimize cost increases, and 75 percent said they offer employee incentive programs as part of this strategy.

More than 84 percent of respondents expect healthcare costs to continue rising. Employers pointed to healthcare premiums and prescriptions as the main reason for the increase. A total of 23 percent named the implementation of employee health and wellness programs as a primary contributor to decreasing costs.

Nearly 88 percent of employees reported that incentives were either an extremely or somewhat important contributor to their participation in corporate wellness programs. A total of 38 percent of employers reported spending between $100 and $500 on annual incentives per worker. The second most popular spending bracket was $501 to $1,000, reported by 22 percent of employers.

A total of 69 percent of employees reported improved activity levels as a result of participating in a wellness program run by their place of employment, and nearly two-thirds enjoyed feeling happier and healthier. Additionally, half cited weight loss and an improved body mass index.

Although only 36 percent of employers said that they were very satisfied or satisfied with their approach to encouraging worker wellness, nearly 68 percent reported that the data they gained from their attempts was either very or somewhat impactful in terms of executive decision-making. Taking a trial and error approach can help companies streamline their programs for success.

Leveraging employees' social networks emerged as a key aspect to a successful wellness program. A total of 44 percent of employer respondents said that having supportive social communities in the workplace encouraged employees to embrace wellness efforts. Employees reported that having the ability to share progress and engage in competition with their peers helped them to develop accountability and push themselves harder, with nearly 35 percent indicating that their peers were instrumental in helping them increase their physical activity levels on a daily basis.

In a similar survey recently conducted by Aon Hewitt, 56 percent of the more than 1,000 employees who took part expressed an interest in employee health habits, and just under half said they would like to lower healthcare costs.