Benefits

Leadership Buy-In Important for Wellness Program Success

Overall, three in five employees (59.6%) welcomed employer involvement in their health, agreeing with the statement “employers should play an active role in improving the health of their employees,” studies found.

By Rebecca Moore editors@plansponsor.com | March 16, 2017

More than three-fourths of employers with workplace health wellness programs in place reported positive impacts from their wellness programs on key outcomes, including workers’ health (83.6%); performance and productivity (83.3%); and health care costs (73.6%), according to results of a report published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.   

However, 80.6% of employers reported offering a wellness program to employees, but only 45% of workers reported being offered some form of wellness program in their jobs. This discrepancy may be due to the definitions of wellness programs that may differ for employees and employers, robustness of program offerings, or communications about and awareness of such programs, the report says. If employees are reporting the option to participate in wellness programs at half the rate of employers offering them, this highlights the need to improve strategic communications campaigns.

Creating an environment that is conducive to health requires more than just physical modifications: social norms modification is as critically important, according to the report. A socially supportive environment includes organizational and leadership support manifested in the form of managerial accountability and alignment of the wellness program with business goals. The report notes that other studies have found managerial support and participation are notable characteristics of well-attended programs.

The surveys found that compared with employees working for small employers, those in large companies were significantly more likely to report that their employer provides them with resources to maintain good health (46.2% vs 38.8%). There was also agreement by employees working at small companies with the statement, “Our CEO and senior leaders feel it is their responsibility to take care of their employees’ health insurance needs” (37.2% of employees in small companies agreed with the statement vs 30.9% at large companies).

Overall, three in five employees (59.6%) welcomed employer involvement in their health, agreeing with the statement “employers should play an active role in improving the health of their employees.” Fewer than half of respondents (46.4%) reported their leaders were committed to workers’ health, safety, and well-being, and only 44.1% reported their work environment allows them to maintain good health.

Of those employees offered a wellness program, the majority (54.7%) reported participating. Reasons for not participating included: “I am not interested” (17.4%), “I am healthy and do not need to use them” (13.5%), and “I already do similar things on my own” (9.7%).

“A culture of health requires buy-in from all levels of an organization, which starts with leadership at a senior level. Commitment to the health of employees permeates through the organization and is exemplified by participating in programs, ensuring that managers at all levels are supportive, and leading by example,” the report says.

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