Fridays (with Benefits) - 5/17/19 - Making wellness programs better

It's safe to say we love employee wellness programs around here. Not only do we cover them extensively in this column, but we even launched an entire retail site around it!

But that doesn't mean these programs don't have room for improvement. In this week's headline, Employee Benefit News dives into some proposed ways employers (and employees) can boost the effectiveness of these programs to make strides in their health and workplace performance.

Making wellness work: 5 ways employers can improve programs - Rebecca Madsen, Employee Benefit News

We knew wellness programs were growing in prominence, but we didn't realize how much. But Madsen opens this article with a (really) encouraging stat -- midsize and large employers are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on well-being programs during 2019, according to a study by the National Business Group on Health (NGBH).

And why wouldn't they? Any investment in happier, more productive workers is a win for all involved. But even we were surprised by how quickly workers were adopting these initiatives into their lives. According to the article, UnitedHealthcare reported 57% of surveyed employees said workplace wellness has positively affected their lives.

So how do employers plan to boost that 57% statistic? By empowering employees to make the most of their wellness opportunities. Here are a few highlights that Madsen felt were important to make this happen.

Modify lifestyle choices

Looking beyond basic dietary advice, employers should consider ways to encourage healthier choices throughout the workday, such as having meetings while walking, offering onsite fitness equipment to use while working, or providing the option for a stand-up desk.

(And for the diet-conscious? Healthy food options and incentives to eat better, even with that awesome burrito place located right down the block.)

Make incentives matter

According to the article, mid-sized and large employers this year will offer an average per-employee well-being incentive of $762, according to the NBGH study. It seems a little high, but it might be the going price. UnitedHealthcare's survey found that, among people who said it would require an incentive for doing health-related activities, 53% said between $1 and $3 per day would motivate them to achieve that goal.

Support socializing

Health isn't just about diet and exercise. People need to like being in the workplace, and socialization plays a big role in making it happen. The article suggests that incorporating social components into your well-being programs will improve adoption and retention. Some of these strategies include walking groups, employee appreciation days and team-building activities such as volunteer events.

It's clear that wellness programs aren't going anywhere but up, in both reach and quality of offerings. But now it's important that employees don't treat these opportunities as "one off" situations, and actually incorporate them into the regular work routines. In other words, those walking meetings need to happen more than once, and in-office snacks shouldn't revert to donuts and chips as soon as the seasons change.


Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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