Employees Have Positive Attitudes Toward Workplace Wellness Programs, but Participation Is Low

There is a role for employers in improving employees’ health and wellbeing, and employees have a high level of satisfaction with existing health and wellbeing programs.

There is a role for employers in improving employees’ health and wellbeing, and employees have a high level of satisfaction with existing health and wellbeing programs, according to a new survey of 1003 full-time employees working for large (1000+ employees) companies.

The survey, conducted by Welltok and the National Business Group on Health, suggests that to improve lagging participation rates in these programs, employers need to do a better job of personalizing programs and involving families. The survey, “Whispers from the Water Cooler: What Motivates Employees to Improve Their Health and Well-Being,” examined how employees view employers’ involvement in programs affecting physical and emotional health, social connections, and financial security. The survey also investigated the impact of rewards, participation motivators; differences in opinion by gender, income, and age were also explored.

The survey also found the following:

  • Most (81%) participants saw a positive impact on their physical wellbeing and more than 60% agreed or strongly agreed that including family in such programs would be likely to increase their participation.
  • For those who did not participate, 37% did not find them personally relevant and 20% did not know they were available. The survey’s developers said this was a strong indication that greater personalization and awareness is needed to drive employee engagement.
  • Rewards work for all employees, whatever their income and age. A great majority (91%) said they would engage in healthier behaviors if they were rewarded. Almost all employees under age 35 agreed (98%), but those over 55 (85%) were somewhat less motivated by rewards.
  • Eighty-six percent of respondents rated their colleagues as one of the top motivators to improving their overall health and wellbeing at work, followed by their direct manager (57%). Millennials were more likely to be influenced by their direct manager (64%) and less by Human Resources (24%); older employees (55+ years) were less motivated by direct managers (51%) and more influenced by HR (40%).
  • Younger employees and those with lower incomes say employers should help them become more financially secure: 63% of households making under $50,000 want employers to play a role in their financial wellbeing, whereas only 44% of those making $200,000 or more responded similarly. Sixty percent of respondents between 18 and 34 thought employers should be involved in financial health; less than half of those 45 and older agreed. Gender affected response also: 58% of women thought employers should play a role in employees’ financial health versus 48% of men.
  • Despite the positive findings about employees’ attitudes toward health and wellbeing promotion programs at the workplace, participation in the programs remains low. Emotional health and financial security programs had the lowest levels of participation (24% and 37%, respectively) and only 48% of employees participated in a program to help them improve their physical health.

The one-size-fits-all approach to communications has proven ineffective in engaging employees, notes Brian Marcotte, CEO and President of the National Business Group on Health, and engagement is the number-one challenge facing employers.

“Personalization is the key and there are emerging engagement platforms and point solutions that show great promise in driving and sustaining engagement by leveraging data, predictive analytics and technology to reach people with personalized, timely, relevant, and actionable information,” he advised.

The report encourages employers to “think differently” about how and when they engage millennials. For example, this age group was more likely to be motivated to change behaviors around summer vacation and the New Year. Older workers were more likely to change behavior around clinical touch points.

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