Majority of Employers Are Willing to Increase Health, Wellness Budgets Compared With 10 Years Ago

October 14, 2019
Alison Rodriguez
Alison Rodriguez

Eighty percent of employers claimed that they are intending to increase their health and wellness budgets this year, more than double compared with 2009 (33%), according to results from the 10th annual Optum Wellness in the Workplace study.

Eighty percent of employers claimed that they are intending to increase their health and wellness budgets this year, more than double compared with 2009 (33%), according to results from the 10th annual Optum Wellness in the Workplace study.

The study included 544 companies with 100 to 10,000-plus employees that currently offer 2 types of health and wellness programs and are involved in the decision-making process of health benefits and programs for employees. Surveys for the study were web-based and conducted from December 2018 to January 2019.

The researchers found that employers are continually increasing the use of digital technology for engaging employees in health and well-being programs. Because of this, the proportion of employers using health-related mobile apps increased by 46% since 2016 as the majority of companies reporting that the apps help with employee participation.

“Employers’ interest in well-designed, comprehensive health and wellness programs that use the latest digital tech has dramatically increased over the last decade,” Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum, said in a statement. “We’ve also seen an evolution in the reasons for offering health and well-being programs with employers saying these initiatives are just as important in attracting and retaining employees as addressing health care costs.”

Employee wellness programs including the use of fitness or activity devices increased by nearly 40% of the study period according to employers, while 71% of employers found a successful employee engagement with these programs.

Additionally, over the last 10 years, around 80% of employers say they offer the wellness programs to reduce long-term health care costs, yet other factors are viewed as equally important, such as 79% say they now offer wellness programs to improve absenteeism/presenteeism, and 78% use the wellness programs to attract and retain talent.

When employers were asked about areas of growing interest to them, the results showed that 84% were concerned about substance use disorder and close to 90% of employers are intending to address the stigma surrounding mental health.