Home » Business » Human Resources

Worksite Wellness Programs Now as Important as Cost and Workforce Issues

Aug 18, 2008
Work site wellness for their employees, employers are discovering, is good for the health of their businesses as well. Health and wellness programs help to cut the costs associated with poor employee health, which include absenteeism, loss of productivity and poor work quality.

A recent Hewitt Associates survey of over 500 US companies indicated a significant paradigm shift in how companies view health benefits for their employees. Of those surveyed this year, 88% are committed to instituting long-term health care assistance programs (over the next 3-5 years) for their employees, with the goal of boosting the health and productivity of their workforce. This represents a 25% increase in interest in work site wellness programs over 2007.

A strong offering of health and wellness programs to meet the demand has resulted. Health assistance providers have broadened their programs with tools that address general lifestyle factors, physical, social and psychological health factors. Programs look to predict chronic disease in their employees and give them the tools and the information to prevent it. Companies also demand a way to measure the effectiveness of their health-care spending.

"Self-care is our motive," says Vic Lebouthillier, president of progressive health and wellness provider Exan Wellness."We really believe giving employees tools to help them manage their own health, and promoting the benefits, while giving people resources to reach out for help is the key to successful lifestyle change. Corporations are also telling us they need a cost-effective way to deliver work site wellness programs. The type of program we have developed over years delivers the highest health care return on investment."

Combining work site wellness promotions, online assessments and health trackers, online health information, telephone conferences and self-help groups, and access to a wide variety of health professionals, is behind the success of the Exan program. "Having online statistics about employees' health also makes it easier to track the bottom line - ROI" says Vic Lebouthillier.

"Companies are moving beyond their traditional role as a provider of health-care benefits to develop holistic programs that pinpoint the specific health needs of their employee populations, drive employee behavior change and eliminate barriers to health-care," says Jim Winkler, leader of Hewitt's health management consulting practice.

However, in a separate survey of 30,000 employees, 74% said that, although they felt their company had an obligation to help them understand how to use their health benefits program, only 12% felt the company had any right to tell them how to be healthy. Based on these results, employers need to drive home the fact that improved health is better for their employees as well as the company. It's a win-win situation.

Employers and employees did find common ground when it came to future health-care. Both surveys indicate that 95% of employees understand that their taking care of their health today will impact future health-care payments. A similar percentage also understand the importance of early detection and prevention when it comes to saving on health-care costs.

Cost is important for most companies as well. Over 80% of those surveyed made cost mitigation a priority for 2008, but those cuts did not involve shifting responsibility for health-care onto employees. Although 64% of companies have shifted costs to their employees, only 17% plan to do so in the next 3-5 years. Similarly with health reimbursement accounts, 20% now offer these, but only about 5% plan to use them in 2008.

These survey results indicate companies are getting more proactive in helping their employees to change behaviors and take ownership of their own health futures. This is obviously good for the well-being of employees, but also for the well-being of the companies they work for.

Almost half the companies surveyed were convinced that changing health behaviors was key to increased productivity and lower absentee rates. Over 60% plan to institute programs that help employees change and/or sustain a healthier lifestyle. Almost of these companies will also use data and measurements to ensure their health-care strategies meet their health-care objectives.
About the Author
Exan Wellness, Inc. is a provider of corporate wellness programs that maximize the efficiency of internet tools with personal health coaching and worksite programs.
http://www.exanwellness.com
Rating:
Please Rate:
(Average: Not rated)
Views: 194
Print Email Report Share
Article Categories