FSA Friday - 4/20/18 - Some perspectives on employee wellness programs

Happy Friday, everyone! Now that your taxes are filed, and most of the country (finally) begins to thaw from the winter, you can focus on more enjoyable things -- like your health! For many, just being healthy and fit is its own reward. But if your company offers an incentive-driven employee wellness program, all the better, right?

On paper, it's hard to imagine anyone would have a problem with programs designed to encourage healthier lifestyle choices, by rewarding them for things like regular exercise and wellness screenings. The thinking is that these programs can only lead to better performance on the job.

However, not everyone is on board. Recent studies have shown some backlash toward employee wellness incentives, claiming they're not being used effectively … and might even be getting exploited.

Let's look at some interesting takes on this discussion...

Deep Dive: Rewarding Healthy Worker Habits - PYMNTS.com

This article from the staff at PYMNTS.com, a website that covers trends in the payments and commerce industry, takes a deeper look at the methods employers are using to drive interest in employee wellness. From accrued, long-term incentives, like reduced insurance premiums, to more-immediate payouts for their efforts, companies have a pretty broad range of ways to keep employees active.

But there are some concerns about the legalities and motives behind some of these approaches. For starters, some professionals are a little wary of being tracked by fitness apps throughout their private lives -- after all, would you want your bosses knowing how many steps you take each night? Your weekend sleep habits?

Going deeper, the article also points out how financial incentives need to be safeguarded, so employee wellness participation doesn't factor into larger decisions, like promotions, pay raises, and more. If your company's annual medical coverage payments are reduced by having more employees enrolled in a wellness program, what's to prevent owners from coercing employees into participating, even if they don't want to?

Still, despite these concerns, the article does highlight the positives. Such as how direct financial wellness incentives seem to be working. Take mattress retailer Casper, which offers real money payments based on fitness rewards, tracked by a proprietary app. These earnings can total up to $130 per month, which can be deposited into their bank accounts, HSAs or FSAs. Not a bad way to keep people moving.

The Right Ingredients Brew Wellness Program Success - Steven Miller, SHRM

In this article from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the key to wellness program success is finding the right mix of offerings and incentives -- not to mention engagement from organizational leaders.

The article indicates that stress management counseling was an effective wellness initiative that had a positive effect on more standard programs, like nutrition and fitness, health screenings and flu shots.

In a report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP), a provider of research and education to benefit plan sponsors, it appears stress management counseling improved the chances a program would have positive results.

The report found in organizations that encouraged stress management, there were boosts in employee engagement, reductions in healthcare costs, and improvements in health screening results.

And these positives start from the top. Management's involvement in communicating about wellness was less common among workplaces with below-average participation rates. The survey also identified the importance of senior leaders' involvement in wellness initiatives:

  • 63% of companies that saw a positive effect on employee engagement and satisfaction said they worked with organizational leadership on their wellness programs.
  • 57% of those seeing a positive impact on healthcare costs involved organizational leadership in their programs.

We're curious to hear your thoughts on employee wellness programs, so drop us a line on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And don't forget to check out our Learning Center for everything you need to #getflexsmart.

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