Workplace wellness programs gaining in popularity
More employers are seeing the benefits of health-related programs according to a new study that reports a 21 percent increase in spending on workplace wellness initiatives.
The research developed by Optum Resource Center for Health & Well-being found that not only is spending increasing on these programs, but the use of incentives is expanding as well. In addition, the larger the organization, the more programs are available.
Small companies offered 5.2 programs on average, mid-sized companies offered 7.4 programs and large companies offered 9.3 programs. Employers reported spending about $167 per participant per year on incentives, up from $154 a year ago. Large employers spend $174 on average.
Medical experts are applauding the trend.
“Something as simple as walking programs or changing the things you put in a vending machine can make a world of difference,” says Dr. Wanda Elliot-Pearson, a family medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “Walking programs that encourage people to take the stairs instead of the elevator or just being part of a group class can motivate people to do better.”
The most popular programs included Employee Assistance Programs, offered by 70 percent of survey respondents; health and wellness websites offered by 53 percent, health assessments offered by 52 percent, wellness coaching offered by 49 percent and health or fitness challenges offered by 48 percent. Officials say wellness programs, especially in a group setting, can be very encouraging.
Some leaders who oversee company wellness programs say they see a difference in the attitudes of employees who participate.
“Healthy associates are happy associates and we are one of the best places to work, so of course we take care of our own,” said Kim Dwyer, vice president of benefit services for Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, Illinois.
Dr. Elliot-Pearson also suggests anyone participating in a new program should consult their primary care physician.
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