Benefits of Health and Wellness Programs for All Employees


In the past two decades, the health care industry and employers’ involvement with health care witnessed many significant changes, most notably the Affordable Care Act. Wellness programs are not a new concept, but the offering of such programs has increased along with the types of benefits and incentives included. Numerous studies support advocates’ claims that health and wellness benefits for employees produce positive benefits for both the employee and the employer. The ACA encourages employers’ use of wellness programs in the workplace, adding guidelines for the implementation of both health outcome-based incentives and participatory wellness programs.
Notable trends, as identified in the recently published 20th Anniversary Edition 2016 Employee Benefits Survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, are highlighted below. The survey reports the responses of 3,490 human resources professionals from SHRM’s membership, of which about half of the member organizations have more than 500 employees and about one-third are companies in the manufacturing or service industries.

What Is Considered a Wellness Program?

Wellness programs in the workplace intend to improve the health of employees and promote fitness. These programs could include a range of activities, such as health screenings or smoking-cessation classes, and offer a variety of incentives, such as gym memberships, discounts on health insurance premiums, paid time off work and cash rewards.
Wellness benefits do not necessarily take the form of specific initiatives. The most commonly provided benefit, according to the SHRM survey respondents, is wellness resources and information. This benefit today is offered by 72 percent of employers, a significant increase from the 54 percent who offered this in 1996.

What Are the Benefits of Wellness Programs?

Several studies have found wellness programs in the workplace generally result in the following benefits:

  • Employees are sick less frequently and take off less sick time. This reduction in lost work days adds up to significant savings for employers, both in wages and workers’ compensation premiums.
  • Employee morale improves individually, since healthier people make for more satisfied people, and organizationally, as employers and employees partner together.
  • Productivity increases, since wellness programs lead to less absenteeism among staff. Productivity also increases overall because, though there are fewer staff members present at work, those who are present aren’t underperforming due to illness.

What Are Some Trends in Health and Wellness Benefits?

Some wellness benefits have not changed much over time. Consider the following:

  • About half of the SHRM survey respondents offer CPR training to staff.
  • Around 40 percent offer a smoking-cessation program.
  • About the same number of employers provide an Employee Assistance Program and Flexible Spending Account options today as they did 20 years ago.

Other wellness benefits increasingly are offered, including:

  • More companies provide a standing desk.
  • Companies giving bonuses or similar rewards for completing certain health-related activities number more than 40 percent.

Some health benefits provided today were not possible two decades ago:

  • Nearly a quarter of the SHRM companies allow employees to receive diagnoses, counseling or other health care via video or other electronic means.

Overall, employers that increase their employees’ access to health benefits and information retain happier and healthier workers who are more productive. To find out some ways to connect your staff to information related to their health, contact one of HealthSherpa’s knowledgeable consumer advocates or insurance agents.

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